Congressmen introduce legislation to create religious minorities envoy

WASHINGTON (JTA) – Legislation calling for the creation of a special envoy in the U.S. State Department for religious minorities in the Middle East and South Central Asia was introduced by two congressmen.

A similar bipartisan bill overwhelmingly passed the House during Congress’ last session by a vote of 402-20 but was blocked in the Senate.

Reps. Frank Wolf (R-Va.) and Anna Eshool (D-Calif.) introduced the legislation on Jan. 15.

“We have a strategic and moral imperative to protect and preserve these ancient faith communities, which this administration has failed to do,” Wolf said in a statement.

He called on America to be “a voice for the voiceless.”

The envoy would address the challenges faced by Coptic Christians, Baha’is, Chaldo-Assyrians, Ahmadis, and the remaining Jewish population and other minority religions throughout the Middle East and South Central Asia, according to Wolf.

Earlier, Wolf sent a letter to more than 300 religious leaders, asking them “to use their influence to speak out on behalf of the persecuted Church around the globe,” who are “imprisoned, beaten, detained, tortured and killed every day because of their beliefs,” he wrote in a statement to JTA.

“I believe the United States has an obligation to speak out on behalf of the millions of voiceless religious minorities in the Middle East,” Eshoo said.

The State Department has other special envoys, including a Sudan special envoy and the North Korea Human Rights special envoy.

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