American Silence Has Sudan Impact
The President's team can hardly afford another scandal, but that's exactly what they'll have on their hands if the U.S. State Department insists on ignoring the plight of an American family in Sudan. For three months, a young Christian wife -- now almost eight and a half months pregnant -- has been shackled in a Sudanese prison on death row. Authorities, who refuse to recognize her marriage to a Christian man, have sentenced her to 100 lashes for adultery and execution for her faith.
As if that weren't horrifying enough, her stateside husband, Daniel Wani, an American citizen, says their 20-month-old toddler is behind bars with her, enduring unspeakable horrors at the hands of the oppressive Sudanese. Her frantic husband, who continues to plead with the U.S. Embassy for help, flew from New England to Khartoum to visit his wife, Meriam Ibrahim -- and was beside himself to find her bound up and swollen. For now, authorities refuse to release his son to Daniel, because of his faith. Although the court gave Meriam days to recant her Christianity, she refused, saying, "I am a Christian, and I will remain a Christian."
And while the court does allow pregnant women to give birth before their hanging, the international community is pressing to overturn the verdict. Unfortunately for Daniel, his home country has barely lifted a finger to help the family, saying only that it was "disturbed" by the case. Yesterday, in a shocking exchange with CNSNews.com, State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki showed the absolute indifference of the Obama administration toward this family's nightmare. Asked if Daniel was in fact a U.S. citizen, Psaki told CNSNews, "Typically we don't confirm those type of details, but I'm happy to check and see if there's more to share." "You don't know whether that little boy in prison is a U.S. citizen?" CNS fired back. "I don't have any more details to share," Psaki answered.
One of the more jaw-dropping parts of the family's story is that the U.S. embassy had demanded a DNA test to prove Daniel was a father. He agreed, even offering wedding documents and birth certificates, but said the American Embassy in Sudan still "did not help me." CNSNews followed up with Psaki, asking, "Did the embassy in Khartoum ask Mr. Wani to provide DNA evidence that that was his son?" Again, the State Department shrugged it off, replying that they'd be "happy to check and see if there's more to share." "So, as of this moment," the reporter pressed, "the U.S. government does not know whether that 20-month-old boy in prison in Sudan is an American citizen imprisoned because he's a Christian?" -- to which Psaki said, "I think I've addressed your questions..." "My wife," Daniel insisted, "was never a Muslim."
Unfortunately, it's been like pulling teeth to get the U.S. involved in international religious liberty crises. It took years to get Boko Haram classified as a terror group for slaughtering Christians. Pastor Saeed Abedini is still being brutalized in an Iranian prison. And now this. "I'm just praying for God. He can do a miracle," said Daniel's brother.
For now, it looks like that miracle might have to come from Congress. Infuriated by Secretary John Kerry's inaction, at least two senators, Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) and Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) are calling on the State Department to intervene and grant the family political asylum. "We write to urge your full attention to the outrageous Sudanese court ruling that sentenced Meriam Yahya Ibrahim Ishag to death by hanging for her religious beliefs. We request your immediate action and full diplomatic engagement to offer Meriam political asylum and to secure her and her son's safe release." The duo also took the opportunity to highlight the vacancy for an Ambassador at Large for International Religious Freedom -- a post that could help prevent, if not alleviate, conflicts like this one.
A Traffic Jam on Trafficking Bills!
There aren't a lot of opportunities for consensus in Congress -- but thank goodness the crisis of human trafficking is one of them. In what's become a rare occurrence in modern politics, the two parties put aside their differences and rallied behind the House's multi-faceted fight against sex slavery. Yesterday, members came at the issue with five bills, tackling everything from foster care reforms, federal and state cooperation, victim intervention and treatment, and new law enforcement resources.
The strong showing also spilled over to a bill FRC had specifically endorsed, Congresswoman Ann Wagner's (R-Mo.) Stop Advertising Victims of Exploitation (SAVE) Act, which clarifies that making money from the exploitation of trafficking victims is against the law -- especially when those victims are advertised online. With a unified effort, the measure passed 392-19. Our thanks to Rep. Wagner for doing what she can to cut off trade at its hub -- the internet, where girls are marketed like common merchandise -- it'll go a long way to stopping the sales in and out of hotels.
We congratulate the House for making the issue a priority and hope that these same members will take FRC's own Leanna Baumer's words to heart:
"We cannot lose sight of the prevailing individual and cultural belief that 'anything goes' and sexual fulfillment and pleasure are to be pursued at any cost. Such beliefs contribute to the rising national consumption of pornography, a product increasingly dependent on the labor of trafficked women and children. Our society by and large continues to turn a blind eye to an industry built upon the exploitation of human beings for profit because we are uncomfortable confronting the reality that our own addiction to sexual entertainment makes us culpable in this national crisis."
For more information about how trafficking affects your community, download FRC's brochure, "Modern Slavery: How to Fight Human Trafficking in Your Community."
On Troop Bill, Congress Soldiers on
As the country heads into Memorial Day weekend, the House is working on a gift for our troops -- funding. If it feels like Congress just wrapped up the National Defense Authorization Act, you're not alone. House members are back at it this week, debating amendments in an all-day marathon that often stretches well into the night. Thanks to conservatives, led by Reps. Doug Lamborn (R-Colo.), John Fleming (R-La.), and Randy Forbes (R-Va.), the conversation will also include greater clarity on one of FRC's key concerns: religious liberty protections.
In the FY2013 and 2014 bills, the Defense Department was ordered to safeguard the rights of service members to hold and express their religious beliefs -- rights that had been threatened in the wave of anti-Christian hostility washing up on U.S. bases. Essentially, that language just reaffirmed the law: that the men and women who fight for our constitutional liberties don't lose their ability to live out and practice their faith just because they join the military.
Unfortunately, the Air Force has been particularly reluctant to bring their policies in line with the law, refusing to shield airmen from the intensely hostile actions taken at the Academy and other facilities. As we witnessed in something as minor as Scripture written on a dorm room white board, the Air Force's vague and unworkable policies are stifling free speech and allow even a hypothetical claim of offense to trump an Airmen's right to talk about or practice their faith.
Members of Congress and Senators have repeatedly called upon Air Force leaders in letters and in hearings to revise Air Force rules. Until they do, confusion will continue to reign. To nudge the branch along, Rep. Lamborn offered an amendment calling on the Pentagon and Air Force to revise their regulations on religious liberty. These brave men and women risk their lives to defend America -- the least we can do is provide them the clarity and support their faith deserves.
** Calling all "Duck Dynasty" fans! If you missed today's "Washington Watch" chat with Al Robertson, click over to TonyPerkins.com to listen.
*** The headlines can be pretty grim these days, and it's tough to know what to do about it. FRC's Rob Schwarzwalder has some advice in his new piece, "On Not Trying to Do Everything." Also, don't miss the latest from FRC's Ken Blackwell and Bob Morrison on Russia in American Thinker, "Putin out and Proud."
Tony Perkins' Washington Update is written with the aid of FRC senior writers.