Nigeria & International Religious Freedom
Congressman Frank Wolf
August 16, 2016, 7:30 pm – 8:45 pm
Congressman Frank Wolf was widely acknowledged as the “conscience” of the Congress during his long service in the House of Representatives. First elected in 1980, he left Congress at the end of his 17th term in 2015 to focus exclusively on human rights and religious freedom.
Long before the “Arab Spring” turned into an “Arab Winter,” Congressman Wolf sounded the alarm about the worsening plight of religious minorities, notably the ancient Christian communities in both Iraq and Egypt.
He has recently returned from a trip to Nigeria. Nigeria is on the verge of fracturing along religious fault lines. Ethnic and religious minorities in northern Nigeria face systemic and systematic discrimination. Muslims and Christians in northeastern Nigeria are profoundly and negatively impacted by the terrorist violence pursued by Boko Haram. Christians risk extinction in Nigeria’s northeast.
Congressman Wolf continues to be an advocate for those who cannot speak for themselves. In January 2015, he was appointed the first-ever Wilson Chair in Religious Freedom at Baylor University. That same month he joined the 21st Century Wilberforce Initiative, a newly created religious freedom group, as Distinguished Senior Fellow.
He is the author of the International Religious Freedom Act, which infused America’s first freedom – religious freedom – into U.S. foreign policy by creating the International Religious Freedom Office at the State Department.
Ladies and gentlemen, good evening, I’m Robert Reilly, Director of the Westminster Institute. I’m so delighted to have you here. As we begin every one of these sessions, asking you to please turn off the ringers on your cellphones. Otherwise, the ringtone will be immortalized, which is broadcasting our presentation tonight live.
Before I introduce our speaker, I just want to call your attention to several upcoming events. After tonight you get the rest of August off, but then in September the first two speakers will be Muslims who are going to help us understand how within the Muslim frame of mind, Islam can be defeated and the first speaker is going to be Dr. Zuhdi Jasser, of whom I’m sure many of you have heard, who is going to be joining us from Phoenix, Arizona to talk about, “Fighting for Victory Against Islamism: A Muslim Blueprint”. That’s on September 8th. On September 14th from Sudan is Gamal al Arabi, who will be speaking about how you diagnose the Islamist ideology. Later in September, Suzanne Scholte on September 28th will be talking to us about North Korea, human rights, and religion.
Well, tonight I’m so thrilled and privileged to be able to introduce to you the honorable Frank Wolf, who needs no introduction. I just want to tell you two quick things. Out on the table is some literature from the Wilberforce Initiative, and there you can sign up for a weekly newsletter written by Congressman Wolf on the subjects of religious freedom and also there is a flyer on “Nigeria, Fractured and Forgotten,” and of course, we’ll hear about that subject tonight, but this gives you the locale of many of the documents and information on the subject of Nigeria.
Now, as you know, Congressman Wolf was widely acknowledged as the conscience of Congress during his long service in the House of Representatives. First elected in 1980, he left Congress at the end of his seventeenth term in 2015 to focus exclusively on human rights and religious freedom. He has recently returned from a trip to Nigeria.
As you will now hear, Congressman Wolf continues to be an advocate for those who cannot speak for themselves. In January 2015, he was appointed the first ever Wilson Chair in Religious Freedom at Baylor University. The same month he joined the 21st Century Wilberforce Initiative, a newly created religious freedom group, as distinguished senior fellow. Notably, Congressman Wolf was the author of the International Religious Freedom Act. Please join me in welcoming Congressman Wolf, who’s going to talk to us about Nigeria and religious freedom.
Congressman Frank Wolf:
Well, thank you very much and thank you very much for the invitation and thank you for having me here. The Bible has much to say about oppression and freedom. In Luke 4:18-19, Jesus is reading from Isaiah at the Synagogue in Nazareth and he says the spirit of the Lord is on me because he has appointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners, and the recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed. And in Ecclesiastes 4:1 in the Old Testament it said again, I looked, I saw all of the oppression that was taking place under the sun. I saw the of the tears of the oppressed and they have no comforter. Power was on the side of their oppressors.
It is undeniable that religious liberty domestically is under assault. When I speak of religious liberty I do so believing that this foundational right is not to be confused with the 21st century notion of mere toleration or limit to freedom of worship. Rather, it is the ability to peacefully live out our faith in every aspect of our lives. And it is on this issue that sands are shifting so quickly that it can be seen like those who hold this first freedom dear are perpetually playing catchup, always on the defensive, constantly ceding ground. Such realities are disheartening and if left unchecked have grave implications.