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U.S. urged to be more vigorous in protecting religious freedom globally


Rep. Chris Smith, R-N.J., speaks during the World Summit in Defense of Persecuted Christians May 12 in Washington. Smith, a Catholic, has long worked on issues of human rights and religious freedom as a member of Congress. (CNS photo/courtesy Congressman Smith's office)

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WASHINGTON (CNS) -- A U.S. congressman told attendees at a Washington summit on Christian persecution that "more than ever before, vigorous U.S. leadership and diplomacy are needed to address religious freedom violations globally."

"Religious persecution is festering and exploding around the world. What has been unconscionable for decades, centuries, has gotten worse," Rep. Chris Smith, R-New Jersey, said May 12 in remarks at the World Summit in Defense of Persecuted Christians.

The May 10-13 summit was convened by the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, and drew several hundred religious leaders and victims of Christian persecution from around the world.

Smith noted that a Washington conference held a month before, titled "Under Caesar's Sword," had "underscored the fact that Christians are the most persecuted religious community globally." In conjunction with that conference, a report was issued detailing the nature of persecution against Christians in different nations across the globe.

"In many countries, Christians suffer genocide and face an existential threat. For many believers, refusal to renounce Jesus Christ means martyrdom, rape, torture and pain," Smith said.

He recalled that 37 years ago during his first term in Congress, he was moved to tears by reading a book titled "Tortured for Christ" by a Romanian Christian pastor, Richard Wurmbrand, who also was the founder of the Voice of the Martyrs.

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