By Mark Pattison | Catholic News Service
WASHINGTON (CNS) — It’s been six years since Frank Wolf served in Congress for a dozen two-year terms. But for the 82-year-old retired congressman, the fire is still in his belly when it comes to protecting the religious rights of people worldwide.
“I have seen firsthand the results of genocide,” Wolf said in remarks July 14 at the International Religious Freedom Summit in Washington.
“I saw it in Darfur,” he said, adding that he and Ambassador Sam Brownback, a former ambassador-at-large for international religious freedom, “were the first members of Congress to travel there.”
He added, “I saw it in Bosnia. I saw a Serb-run detention facility.”
Wolf continued: “I saw it in Iraq. I visited the Nineveh Plans. Yazidi fathers wept over the brutal murder of their daughters by ISIS fighters.
“I saw it in Nigeria. Boko Haram has committed genocide against Christians and genocidal activities by Fulani militants.”
Wolf, widely credited for getting the International Religious Freedom Act passed in 1998, recalled going on a mission to one country with Rep. Chris Smith, R-N.J., and meeting with members of a persecuted religious minority. “When we went back,” he said, “every one of them had been murdered.”
“And the genocide continues.”
Wolf turned his attention to China, “where Buddhist monks and nuns have been setting themselves on fire to protest their cultural annihilation by China. … Falun Gong faces severe persecution amid continued reports of organ harvesting. … More than 1 million Uighurs have been placed in detention camps.”
But what stirred Wolf’s ire anew is the specter of fellow former members of Congress lobbying their successors to lift restrictions placed on China for its persecution activities.
Wolf quoted from the Book of Ecclesiastes — “I looked at all the oppression taking place under the sun” — then said, “Power is on the side of the oppressors. Power is on the side of the moneyed interests. Power is on the side of the moneyed interests controlling the narrative” desiring “corporate access to China above all else.”
He called the lobbying practice “an affront to human decency. … It goes against what you and everyone in this room believe in.”
Wolf said, “We need a law prohibiting former members of Congress and high officials from representing companies complicit in genocide and religious persecution.”
“Until such legislation is passed, current members of Congress should not take political contributions form such lobbyists and nobody in Congress or the executive branch should meet with these lobbyists,” he added, garnering applause from those present.
Wolf also quoted from the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., who said, “In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies but the silence of our friends.” “Are we not the friends of the persecuted?” he asked.
He next quoted British anti-slavery advocate William Wilberforce: “You may choose to look the other way, but you can never say again that you do not know.”
“What remains to be seen,” Wolf said, “is whether men and women of faith and other men and women of good will will accept this challenge or look away. The stakes could not be higher.”