Month Archives: January 2021

Kansas’s Value Them Both Amendment Would Be a Win for Life

by Mary Jayne Caum

January 22, 2021

Today is the somber 48th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, a day that stripped the American unborn of the most fundamental of rights: the right to life.

On this anniversary of judicial activism, the Kansas House of Representatives voted to return the right to regulate abortion back to the people in an effort to protect both mothers and their unborn children. The House voted in favor of the Value Them Both Amendment in an effort to correct the overreach of the Kansas Supreme Court. Although the Kansas Constitution does not mention abortion, in 2019, the Kansas Supreme Court reinterpreted the state Constitution to include a right to abortion. Since then, pro-life activists have been working to correct this blatant judicial activism.

The Value Them Both Amendment rejects the false idea that abortion is a mother’s “right.” This Amendment would protect mothers from an unregulated abortion industry, rather than allowing the state Supreme Court to dictate the terms of abortion to Kansas voters. It empowers the citizens of Kansas to enact common-sense regulations for the dangerous abortion industry, and to preserve several pro-life laws that are already on the books but are now threatened by the Supreme Court’s activism.

The next stop for the Value Them Both Amendment is the Kansas Senate. If you (or your friends and family) live in Kansas and believe Kansans, not unelected justices, should determine abortion policy, contact your Kansas Senator today.

Will Joe Biden Be as Pro-Life as President Trump?

by Mary Szoch

January 21, 2021

As Joe Biden’s presidency begins, Donald Trump’s presidency has come under even greater scrutiny. His administration’s record on life issues is no exception. Hillary Clinton and others are claiming that Democratic presidents are just as good as, if not better than Republicans on life issues. Although it is true that abortion numbers reportedly declined during Barack Obama’s presidency and increased slightly between 2017 and 2018 under Trump, it would be incorrect to attribute the decrease or increase to either president. Correlation does not equal causation. These numbers in isolation should not be taken as an indication that we should expect the Biden administration to be just as (or more) pro-life as the Trump administration.

The U.S. Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision (1973) made abortion through all nine months of pregnancy the legal default unless Congress or individual states passed laws restricting it. In Planned Parenthood v. Casey (1992), the Court adjusted its previous decision to say that a state cannot impose an “undue burden” on a woman’s attempt to obtain an abortion pre-viability. As a result of these two decisions, state law—not presidents—have the greatest influence over whether abortion numbers rise or fall in a given year.

Even though state laws have the greatest effect on abortion numbers, pro-life presidents still make a huge difference. President Biden will likely reverse many of the Trump administration’s pro-life policies, but the 200 federal judges and three Supreme Court justices—many with proven pro-life records—that Trump appointed during his presidency will be serving on the bench for years to come. Planned Parenthood’s website states, “For the Supreme Court, Trump delivered on his promise to nominate justices who could overturn Roe v. Wade.”

The impact of these judicial appointments cannot be overstated. As Michael New pointed out, if the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, state laws that protect the unborn—including six heartbeat bills that would prevent abortion after six weeks and an Alabama law that would ban nearly all abortions—would immediately go into effect, saving thousands of unborn children’s lives. Federal judges with a proven originalist track record have a far greater chance of upholding pro-life legislation than any Democratic appointees. These judges are appointed for life, and so, while the number of abortions may have slightly increased from 2017 to 2018, the impact of these judges will last far beyond the Trump administration—just ask Planned Parenthood.   

Although the Trump administration was unable to fully defund Planned Parenthood of taxpayer dollars, it did finalize the Protect Life Rule and redirected millions of federal Title X family planning funds away from abortion businesses. President Biden is expected to reverse this. The Trump administration also supported the historically bipartisan Hyde Amendment, which ensures that American taxpayer dollars do not pay for abortions domestically. Hyde is credited with saving over two million lives. For the first time since Hyde was voted on in 1976, President Biden and the Democrat-controlled Congress are expected to try to remove it.   

President Trump took executive action to reinstate and expand the Protecting Life in Global Health Assistance Policy, which prevented American taxpayers from being forced to fund abortions internationally. President Trump also issued an Executive Order on Protecting Vulnerable Newborn and Infant Children, which states that babies born alive after an abortion must be given the same level of medical treatment afforded to other children born alive at the same gestational age. President Biden is expected to reverse both of these actions. Pray that he does not.  

Our faith tells us, “Nothing is impossible for God” (Luke 1:37). Let’s pray for the seemingly impossible—that President Biden will have a change of heart and that his administration will be as pro-life as Trump’s. This would be the opposite of everything we expect, but it would be a welcome surprise for all those who value life.

Supreme Court Protects Women’s Health by Reinstating FDA Restriction on Chemical Abortion

by Mary Szoch

January 18, 2021

On January 12, the Supreme Court granted the Food and Drug Administration (FDA)’s request to reinstate its requirements surrounding the distribution of the mifepristone abortion regimen. This ruling reversed a federal judge in Maryland’s ruling that blocked the FDA’s in person distribution requirement for the regimen citing the challenges to chemical abortion access presented by the COVID-19 pandemic. The Supreme Court decision was a win for women’s health. 

In 2000, under the leadership of the pro-abortion Clinton administration, the FDA approved mifepristone for abortion usage and declared that mifepristone was subject to certain distribution restrictions to ensure safe usage. In 2011, these restrictions were converted to Risk Evaluation and Mitigation Strategies, otherwise known as REMS. The FDA decided to place restrictions on this drug because mifepristone carries with it life-threatening and health-endangering risks, such as hemorrhage, infection, incomplete pregnancy, retained fetal parts, the need for emergency surgery, and even death.

The restrictions, which were weakened but ultimately kept in place by the pro-abortion Obama administration in 2016, are meant to protect the women taking the drug. Under the current REMS, the drug must be prescribed by a health care provider who can assess patient eligibility, diagnose ectopic pregnancies, and provide or facilitate emergency surgical intervention in the case of an incomplete abortion or severe bleeding. Under FDA rules, mifepristone is not available from pharmacies. Notably, the 2016 weakening of the REMS removed the requirement for manufacturers to report any adverse events to the FDA other than death.   

The FDA is “responsible for protecting public health by assuring the safety, efficacy and security of human and veterinary drugs, biological products, medical devices, our nation’s food supply, cosmetics, and products that emit radiation.” Though the FDA operates under the Executive branch, a department responsible for protecting public health by ensuring the safety, efficacy, and security of human and veterinary drugs should not be a political organization. Its decision to put restrictions on mifepristone are based on the drug’s ability to harm women—not on a political agenda.

This spring, the ACLU filed a lawsuit demanding that the FDA temporarily suspend enforcement of the REMS so that women could receive mifepristone through the mail, thus eliminating the requirement for patients to see a health care provider prior to ingesting this dangerous drug. The ACLU argued that the patient had already been evaluated by a clinician either using telehealth or at a prior in-person visit, thus negating the need for another in-person visit to receive the drug.

Unfortunately for women, their health care is certainly not a top priority in this lawsuit. Though a doctor may be able to determine how far along a pregnancy is or diagnose an ectopic pregnancy through telemedicine, it is certainly not best medical practice. Failing to diagnose an ectopic pregnancy or to properly assess the length of a pregnancy can cause serious harm—and even death—to the woman taking the mifepristone. The Maryland court’s acceptance of the ACLU arguments puts women’s lives at risk.

Thankfully, for the time being, the Supreme Court decision issued a stay of the preliminary injunction that reinstated the REMS requirement. This means the Court will allow the FDA to once again enforce its requirement for now. In his concurrence granting the stay, Roberts wrote that the “courts owe significant deference to the politically accountable entities with the ‘background, competence, and expertise to assess public health.’” In other words, Robert’s deferred to the FDA rather than specifically voting because of the risk to women’s lives.

Under the Biden administration, the FDA will have the opportunity to continue supporting the REMS, just like they did under the two proceeding pro-abortion Democratic administrations, or to do away them. In the past 20 years, mifepristone has not gotten any safer for women. Hopefully, under the Biden administration, the FDA will not decide to play politics with women’s lives.

FRC’s Top 7 Trending Items (Week of January 10)

by Family Research Council

January 15, 2021

Here are “The 7” top trending items at FRC over the past seven days:

1. Update: Technically (Not) Speaking: The Conservative Purge Begins

All they needed was an opening. And for the rich Tech giants of Twitter, Facebook, Google, and Amazon, the recent riot at the Capitol building gave them one. The purging of conservative expression has begun. We knew it was coming and it will take every one of us to stop it.

2. Update: ’Heaven Is Not Shaken’

This country has seen some dark days. There have been moments of unbelievable despair, like we witnessed at the Capitol, when everything seems to come apart at the seams. Yet, in almost 250 years, even the worst of times have never defined us. And we can’t afford to let this one either.

3. Blog: A 2020 Retrospective: Violence Against Africa’s Christians

In 2020 FRC published a report documenting horrifying statistics of mass murders in Africa. In 2021 it is past time for the world to stop looking regretfully at Africa’s tragedies in the rear view mirror. Instead, a determined coalition of nations needs to step forward and develop ways and means of extinguishing the surging jihadi violence.

4. Blog: 10 Facts About Global Religious Persecution From the 2021 World Watch List

Open Doors recently released its annual 2021 World Watch List. This report identifies the 50 countries where it is most difficult to be a Christian. As the threats to religious freedom mount, it is important to know the challenges believers face around the world.

5. Washington WatchChris Cuomo Mocks Senator Marco Rubio’s Daily Habit of Tweeting Bible Verses

CNN’s Chris Cuomo mocked Senator Marco Rubio, calling him “Bible boy” for tweeting daily Bible verses. Listen to what Senator Rubio had to say about his “scandalous” practice of sharing Bible verses.

6. Washington Watch: Lt. Gen. Jerry Boykin Urges Conservatives to Channel their Election Frustration Into Prayer & Action

After the violent chaos in our nation’s Capitol building, Lt. Gen. (Ret.) Jerry Boykin joined Tony Perkins to give thoughts on the way forward for our country.

7. Pray Vote Stand broadcast: Pray for our Nation

On this edition of Pray Vote Stand, Tony welcomed Pastors Carter Conlon, Jack Hibbs, and Kelvin Cochran to lead us in prayer for this nation.

Why Christians Should Make Goals for 2021

by Molly Carman

January 15, 2021

The start of a new year can be both exciting and intimidating. It is an opportunity to reflect on the successes and shortcomings of the previous year and the personal growth that took place. For example, this last year I had the goal to read roughly 25 books, or at least 5,000 pages. It was so encouraging to add up the page count in December and celebrate that although I only read 23 books, I did surpass the minimum page count reading nearly 5,500 pages. This goal revived a love of reading and learning on a variety of topics, in addition to encouraging a habit of diligence.

A new year is a time to set new goals, or resolutions, for the next 12 months. But goal setting can be extremely intimidating. So much can happen in a day, much less an entire year. In addition, whenever a goal is made, there is opportunity for failure which dissuades many from making goals in the first place. However, by setting resolutions for the year, a vision is cast for where we want to go, what we hope to accomplish, and how we desire to grow. Without vision it is unclear where one is going, and if one does not know where they are going, they neither accomplish nor fail at anything.

Setting goals gives us the opportunity to step back and consider different facets of our lives and how to pursue growth in each area. Rather than look at life as a whole when goal setting, it can be helpful to think in terms of categories such as spiritual, ministry, physical, educational, relational/family, financial, travel, work, and fun. Order allows for thoughtfulness and well-rounded goal setting.

Further, after determining the categories one wants to grow in, it is important to craft goals in a way that sets one up for success. To this end, it is helpful to pursue S.M.A.R.T. goals. This acronym stands for: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Timely. By thinking and planning along the lines of this framework, it is possible to formulate goals with a higher probability of success.

For example, it is common for Christians to have a goal like, “read the Bible more this year.” However, consider how this broad goal fails the S.M.A.R.T. test and is therefore difficult to track. For example, this goal is not specific about how it will be achieved. It lacks measurable guidelines. Moreover, while the goal is generally achievable, it lacks clarity or direction. Further, while the goal of reading the Bible more is realistic, it is so undefined that it is impossible to know what constitutes success. Finally, the general goal of simply reading the Bible more lacks a time mechanism by which it can be tracked and there is no inherent accountability for gauging progress.

All these deficiencies can be relieved by simply thinking in terms of the S.M.A.R.T. framework. For example, consider this revised goal: “Read 2-3 chapters of the Bible every morning before breakfast for at least 30 minutes with the goal of reading through the Bible in two years.” FRC has made it easier for you to start your day immersed in the Word. Check out our two-year Bible reading plan which you can sign up for to receive a free daily email with the readings and reflections.

If you are struggling to make goals for resolutions this year, or maybe you have never made goals or resolutions before, do not be discouraged or overwhelmed. This process takes time, prayer, courage, and diligence.

FRC has several ways for you to start this year by resolving to be more up to date with cultural issues and current events in our country, in addition to setting a goal to walk with us in prayer and the reading of Scripture. These opportunities include subscribing to the Washington Update, listening to the Washington Watch radio program, or downloading the FRC Stand Firm app on your phone. You can subscribe to these resources and more here.

Even if you only make one or two goals this year, pray and ask God to give you wisdom as you start 2021 and consider the words of Proverbs 16:3, “Commit your work to the Lord, and your plans will be established.” Each of us has been given the gift of life. May we all be good stewards of our time and the journey ahead. 

10 Facts About Global Religious Persecution From the 2021 World Watch List

by Arielle Del Turco

January 14, 2021

Yesterday, Open Doors, a non-profit dedicated to raising awareness about the persecuted church, released its annual 2021 World Watch List. This report identifies the 50 countries where it is most difficult to be a Christian. Whether by violent attacks from non-state actors or government regulations, Christians face severe impediments to the free practice of their faith in many places around the world. As the threats to religious freedom mount, it is important to know the challenges believers face around the world.

Here are 10 facts about global religious persecution from this year’s World Watch List.

1. More Christians are murdered in Nigeria than in any other country. 

Open Doors found that an estimated 5,678 people were killed in Nigeria from October 2019 to September 2020, making Nigeria the country where Christians endure the most fatal violence. Attacks from Boko Haram, Fulani militant herdsmen, and the ISIS affiliate ISWAP are common throughout Middle Belt and northern Nigeria.

The near-genocide that is occurring in Nigeria warrants the world’s urgent attention, as FRC highlighted in its publication, The Crisis of Christian Persecution in Nigeria.

2. COVID-19 has enabled religious persecution through relief discrimination, forced conversion, and as justification for increasing surveillance.

Researchers from Open Doors found that COVID-19 relief discrimination against Christians occurred in Ethiopia, Malaysia, Nigeria, Vietnam, and the Middle East, among other places. Some Christians have been told that they were denied aid from their governments because “your Church or your God should feed you” or “the virus was created and/or spread by the West.”

3. Technology is making it easier for governments to control and suppress religious activities.

China is the foremost example of an oppressive regime that utilizes advanced technology to manipulate its citizens’ behavior—including religious practice. However, Iran is rapidly emerging as a surveillance state.

One Iranian Christian named Saghar told Open Doors, “I’m sure that my phone also was tapped by the government. They could sort of record my conversations, and so in our meetings, we would turn off our phones and put it in another room. Because we know that they are able to record any voices and sounds in the room by the phones. And also, I believe that they have a particular team to hack emails, people’s emails, Christians’ emails, and the private like social medias. And I know that they spend lots of money for this and use the technology to have surveillance on Christians.”

4. North Korea has held the title of “world’s worst persecutor of Christians” for 20 consecutive years.

A tragic consistency over the last two decades is that North Korea remains the world’s worst violator of religious freedom. Entering 2021, things are not looking better for the people of North Korea as COVID-19 has presented added challenges.

For more information on the horrific abuses against Christians in North Korea and what the U.S. government can do about it, read FRC’s new publication, North Korea: The World’s Foremost Violator of Religious Freedom.

5. Sudan’s new constitution guarantees freedom of religion, but it will take time for the situation of Christians to improve.

Sudan, a longtime violator of religious freedom, takes the 13th spot on the World Watch List. Although marked improvements have occurred over the last two years, Christians wait to see if their Islamic society will fully accept them. For now, Christians in Sudan still face challenges, especially those from a Muslim background.

6. Approximately 91 percent of recorded violent killings of Christians for faith-related reasons took place in Africa.

Although the African continent is home to the world’s largest number of Christians, religiously motivated violence is increasing. In sub-Saharan Africa, Christians experienced 30 percent higher levels of violence from Islamist militant groups than the previous year. It is believed this can be attributed to the groups taking advantage of lockdowns and governments rendered weaker from the COVID-19 crisis. FRC’s Lela Gilbert has highlighted the sharp rise in violence in Africa in 2020.

7. China jumped to #17 on the World Watch List.

Reflecting the rapidly worsening religious freedom conditions in China, Open Doors now recognizes the country as the 17th most difficult country to be a Christian. Americans may be familiar with the persecution faced by members of house churches, but even state-sanctioned churches face increasing pressure from the Chinese government.

In an interview with Open Doors, Rev. Jonathan Liu, a former pastor of a state-approved Three-Self Movement church in China, said, “In the government-sanctioned churches, the pastors are politicalized and obedient to the CCP. The CCP’s lessons and preachings were also spoken or written according to the policies of the Chinese government. The government also keeps a very strong eye on the churches. I felt very oppressed while I worked in the government-sanctioned church.”

8. Legal harassment of Christians in Turkey has caused some Christians to consider fleeing.

The rise in religious nationalism in Turkey has placed increasing pressure on Christians in the last few years. While this has made some Christians consider leaving Turkey, others do not have to consider it—they are being forced to go. Dozens of foreign Christian workers and church leaders have been made to leave Turkey. Due to increasing legal harassment, Turkey rose from #25 from #36 on the World Watch List.

9. In Latin American, drug cartels are the largest threat to religious freedom.

Drug cartels often violently attack Catholic bishops and priests in Columbia, Mexico, and throughout Latin America. Church leaders are typically targeted for condemning corruption and violence, thereby threatening the illicit activities of these criminal enterprises.

10. The world’s largest democracy, India, is among the top 10 most difficult countries to be a Christian.

Although India maintains a strong democracy, the Hindu nationalist movement, to which the current Indian prime minister belongs, forwards the poisonous idea that “to be Indian is to be Hindu,” leaving little room for those of other faiths. This ideology has inspired mob violence against Christians and others. Meanwhile, Indian Christians also face discrimination from the government. Open Doors estimates that 150,000 Christians in India were denied aid during the COVID-19 pandemic because of their faith.

Overall, this year’s World Watch List reminds us of the many diverse challenges faced by fellow believers around the world. As we learn more about the persecuted church, may we be moved to prayer and action on their behalf.

A 2020 Retrospective: Violence Against Africa’s Christians

by Lela Gilbert

January 13, 2021

As this new year begins, it’s obvious that America is facing many challenges—some old, some new. And they most certainly cannot be taken lightly. However, those of us who focus on international religious freedom also concentrate on concerns beyond our shores, and a look at Africa’s recent history in the rear-view mirror reflects terrifying images. As one deadly assault after another fades out of sight, encroaching assailants are rushing forward at terrifying speed. 

The largest country in Africa and the most commercially significant, Nigeria is the site of what has been described as a slow-motion genocide in which tens of thousands of Nigerian Christians have been massacred in recent years. A Family Research Council report published in July 2020 documents horrifying statistics of mass murders there, almost entirely at the hands of three Islamist terrorist groups: Boko Haram, Islamic State in West Africa Province (ISWAP), and Fulani jihadis.

Nigeria may be the worst example of violence against African Christians, but it is far from the only one. Violent incidents across the African continent are increasing. One notorious example in November 2020 was the reported beheading of 50 civilians in Mozambique—many of them Catholic Christians.

Fighters linked to Islamic State attacked several villages in Mozambique, killing civilians, abducting women and children, and burning down homes. The gruesome description of innocent people “herded” to their death on a soccer field, where they were systematically decapitated and dismembered, was nightmarish. That wasn’t the only such incident in 2020, and it certainly won’t be the last. Due to a hapless government response, ISIS continues its assaults, most recently on January 2, 2021. 

In September 2020, an email from New Covenant Missions informed FRC that a Christian family had recently been arrested in Somalia—the infamous location of Black Hawk Down. Local police accused the couple of abandoning Islam, and even more dangerously, of evangelizing the people of Somaliland. According to Somali Bible Society, “The spokesperson’s speech was peppered with threats against local Christians.” We learned that the arrested man had been tortured; his wife had delivered a baby by C-section just weeks before and required urgent medical attention, and the baby needed maternal care and breastfeeding.

FRC and other Christian groups pleaded for prayer. Thankfully, we later learned that this courageous family had been released. But dangers to Christians in Somalia have not diminished. Nearly all of the believers there are converts from Islam, which means they can face a death sentence for apostacy if arrested.

Frequent reports of persecution incidents in East Africa abound. At the same time, West Africa has more than its share of anti-Christian violence—and is of ever-increasing concern.

The Washington Post reported, “One evening in late June, gunmen stormed a village in northern Burkina Faso and ordered people who had been chatting outside to lie down. Then the armed strangers checked everyone’s necks, searching for jewelry. They found four men wearing crucifixes—Christians. They executed them…”

Since then, the situation has gone from bad to worse. Burkina Faso is one of several vulnerable West African countries that are frequently targeted for terrorism, including Christian persecution. The so-called “Group of Five” (G5) nations—Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania, and Niger—face continuous threats and attacks. These are of deepening concern to international military analysts and religious freedom advocates alike, thanks to the tireless brutality of ISWAP, Boko Haram, and al-Qaeda.

Meanwhile, North Africa faces similar dangers. Likewise, reports from East Africa warn that ISIS, al-Shabaab, Ansar al-Sharia, and other Islamist groups are strengthening their numbers and increasing their territory. And unfortunately, what happens in Africa is unlikely to stay in Africa—economically, politically, or militarily. Radicalized Africans have already murdered innocents and torched churches in Europe. Little has been done in response, and most well-intentioned efforts have been largely ineffective.

In 2021 it is past time for the world to stop looking regretfully at Africa’s tragedies in the rear view mirror. Instead, a determined coalition of nations needs to step forward and begin to develop ways and means of extinguishing the surging jihadi violence. And it’s essential that our Christian communities continue not only to pray but to demand such action. Why? Because as the wildfire of terrorism continues to rage across that vast, violent continent, one thing is sure: It is Africa’s Christians who will continue to pay the ultimate price for the world’s inaction.

When Dealing With North Korea, Human Rights Must Take Priority

by Arielle Del Turco

January 12, 2021

The North Korean capital of Pyongyang greeted the new year with singing, dancing, and fireworks as the national anthem played at midnight on December 31st.

Beyond the staged Pyongyang crowd and across the rest of the darkened country, the reaction to another year under the Kim regime may have received a less warm welcome—especially in the numerous political prison camps thought to detain an estimated 120,000 people, according to the Committee for Human Rights in North Korea.

The 2014 United Nations Commission of Inquiry on human rights conditions in North Korea found that a wide range of acts perceived to be against the state can land someone in a political prison camp. For repatriated defectors, simply encountering a Christian church is grounds for detention in a political prison camp, or even execution. The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) believes as many as 50,000 of the prisoners in political labor camps are Christians imprisoned for their faith.

Any act of faith puts North Korean Christians in danger. One defector testified to the severe risk of possessing a Bible: “In North Korea, you can get away with murder if you have good connections. However, if you get caught carrying a Bible, there is no way to save your life.”

Unfortunately, the past year brought no known improvements to North Korea’s abysmal human rights record. And the changes that have occurred in 2020 point to rising hardships for the North Korean people and an increasingly dangerous security situation.

The young dictator Kim Jong Un is under intense pressure as he tries to manage an already struggling economy that has been hampered even more than usual due to COVID-19. Speaking at a military parade in October, Kim was driven to tears as he apologized for the difficulties many North Koreans faced in 2020. It is almost unheard of for a North Korean leader to admit failure, and it may signal a vulnerable regime. Yet, at the same parade, the military unveiled a record number of new weapons, which present clear threats to the United States and its allies.

North Korea has long been a national security priority for U.S. presidents. This is unlikely to change for the incoming administration, which will doubtless be forced to cope with a rogue North Korean regime that continues to threaten its neighbors and adversaries.

No matter how the U.S. chooses to tackle the challenges posed by North Korea, one thing is certain: addressing human rights violations must be a part of the strategy. A new Family Research Council report, North Korea: The World’s Foremost Violator of Religious Freedom, outlines several ways that the U.S. government can promote religious freedom and human rights in North Korea.

In any negotiations between the U.S. and North Korea, human rights should be on the table. Before the U.S. even considers lifting sanctions, the North Korean regime must take measurable steps to alleviate the dire human rights situation within its borders. One specific demand American officials can make of North Korea is the release of all Christians, along with children and families, from prison camps.

Additional efforts should also be made to support the dissemination of information inside of North Korea. North Korean defectors regularly cite exposure to outside news and media as a primary motivating factor prompting their escape. The regime tightly restricts access to information or entertainment aside from state propaganda, but North Koreans deserve to know the truth.

South Korea’s National Assembly recently made human rights activism more difficult for its citizens by passing an anti-leaflet law meant to crack down on balloon and bottle launches that sent leaflets, USB sticks, and even Bibles across the border into the North. This new law is a disappointing move on the part of the South Korean government. Both South Korea and the U.S. should be supporting, rather than restricting, human rights advocacy on behalf of the millions of North Koreans who are barred from speaking up for themselves.

As an incoming U.S. presidential administration crafts its foreign policy priorities for the next four years, the North Korean religious freedom and human rights situation should occupy a prominent position. A transformed North Korea that poses no threat to the rest of the world ultimately requires a North Korean government that respects its people and allows them to live according to their consciences.

FRC’s Top 7 Trending Items (Week of January 3)

by Family Research Council

January 8, 2021

Here are “The 7” top trending items at FRC over the past seven days:

1. Update: In Disappointment, Buoyed by Hope

Disappointment has been a familiar friend to a lot of Americans these last several weeks. More than anything, we just want something to go our way. As Christians, we have the gift of an eternal perspective that teaches us there’s a tomorrow. And no election, no power of man can take that from us.

2. Blog: Year in Review: 10 Stories From 2020

In a year dominated by the coronavirus pandemic which brought unprecedented changes into our lives, it is easy to forget what else took place. But there were other significant stories from this past year that deserve our reflection. From the perspective of two Christians working in public policy in our nation’s capital, here are 10 encouraging stories from 2020.

3. Blog: In This New Year, Let’s Be Attentive To Those Persecuted for Their Faith

Religious freedom—the freedom to choose and live in accordance with one’s faith—is foundational to human dignity. God has called Christians to care for the persecuted and oppressed, and that obligation stretches beyond our national borders. At a time when religious oppression is on the rise around the world, it is more important than ever to consider our responsibility to the persecuted.

4. Washington Watch: Rep. Mark Green Describes the Capitol Chaos from Inside the Congressional Lockdown

Congressman Mark Green, U.S. Representative for the 7th district of Tennessee, joined Tony Perkins to discuss members of Congress being evacuated as protestors stormed the Capitol building during the electoral count proceedings.

5. Washington WatchPhill Kline Explains How the Virus & Big Tech Helped Liberals Manipulate the Presidential Election

Phill Kline, Director of the Amistad Law Project of the non-partisan Thomas More Society, joined Tony Perkins to explain how the coronavirus and Big Tech helped liberals manipulate the presidential election.

6. Washington Watch: Jack Hibbs Shows Christians How to Process the Frustration of the Election and Find Hope

Jack Hibbs, Senior Pastor of Calvary Chapel Chino Hills, joined Tony Perkins with biblical insight. Also discussed is CNN’s Chris Cuomo mocking Florida Senator Marco Rubio as “Bible boy.”

7. Pray Vote Stand broadcast: Pray for the Nation

On this edition of Pray Vote Stand, Tony welcomed Louie Gohmert, Jody Hice, Jack Hibbs, Steve Riggle, and Michele Bachmann to join him in a special time of prayer for the nation.

Christmas in Nigeria: Celebration Overshadowed by Danger

by Lela Gilbert

January 7, 2021

Across America, the Christmas holidays this year were not as festive as usual. Still, beloved songs and carols, colorful lights and small family gatherings provided a welcome diversion from pandemic gloom and presidential election quarrels. And the reminder that “Christ is the reason for the season” was happily recalled by Christians, despite some other less-than-celebratory circumstances.

Christmas is not, however, “the most wonderful time of the year” in war-torn Nigeria. Although the country’s millions of Christians continue to rejoice in the birth of Jesus, and gratefully recall His first appearance so long ago in Bethlehem, the joys of the season are inevitably overshadowed by danger and dread. 

As long as I have written about Nigeria—since, I think, 2006—Christmas joys have been eclipsed by danger. And, like clockwork, in 2020 Nigeria’s Advent season was once again marred by violent attacks, kidnappings and murders.

I wrote to Hassan John, Communications Director for the Church of Nigeria Anglican Communion, and asked him to tell me more about this increasingly tragic situation. In a January 6 email he responded:

Over the past decade, Christmas celebrations have waned in fervor and the pageantry that has always been associated with the festive season. Instead it has been marked with attacks and destruction of villages and communities. In the last two weeks, at least five villages have been attacked near Chibok, where 276 schoolgirls were abducted in April 2014. These attacks were hardly even reported in the local news. Reports have primarily focused on a pastor who was killed and two others who have been abducted by Boko Haram.

But that wasn’t all. Hassan pointed out that, according to the Council on Foreign Relations Nigeria Security Tracker, Boko Haram killed seven and kidnapped five in Nganzai, Borno on December 22. On December 24, Boko Haram killed six and kidnapped three in Chibok, Borno. And on December 25, Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP) executed 11 captives.

He went on to say, “Warnings about travels and security advice sent by security forces added to the anxieties this year during the Christmas season. Then, last night, 5th January, another village, Wamdeo, also near Chibok, was attacked and a church destroyed. We are still getting information about the extent of destruction and if there are human casualties….”

Other reports describe the added endangerment the global pandemic has brought upon on Nigeria’s already beleaguered Christian communities.

According to a Christian Post article, Christians are facing a double threat: Islamist terrorism and COVID-19. “Nigeria’s government has advised Christians to stay in their homes to avoid COVID-19,” explained human rights expert Dalyop Solomon. “But if they remain locked down at home, they cannot escape when groups of terrorists attack them.”

Solomon went on to say that Fulani militants destroy or plunder crops when they attack, and farmers’ livelihoods are destroyed. But to make matters worse, “COVID-19 restrictions prevent them from leaving their homes to plant new crops.”

On December 17, the Congressional Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission held an important hearing hosted by Rep. Chris Smith, focusing on “Conflict and Killings in Nigeria’s Middle Belt.” Nearly four hours of testimony from more than a dozen international experts offered complex and often parallel perspectives on what many described in similar terms as “mass atrocities,” “mass killings,” “massacres,” and “genocidal acts.” Notably, one of the witnesses, Morse Tan, Ambassador at Large for Global Criminal Justice, pointed out that “Christmas is a time of great risk of mass killing.” Within a week’s time, his words proved to be all too true once again in 2020.

There was but one notable exception. On Sunday evening, December 27, Catholic Bishop Moses Chikwe—the auxiliary bishop of his archdiocese—and his driver, Ndubuisi Robert, were kidnapped by unidentified gunmen in Owerri, the capital of Imo State in southeastern Nigeria.

As always, the Christian communities began to pray. But interestingly, in this case Nigerians were not alone in their prayers. Catholics in Southern California also appealed to heaven for the bishop’s safe return. Chikwe had served for several years as a priest in the Diocese of San Diego, and he was beloved there.

On New Year’s Day, a bulletin about Bishop Chikwe announced that he and his driver had been released, “unhurt and without ransom.”

Unfortunately, the Nigerian news is rarely so bright and hopeful as that lone report. The U.S. State Department announced earlier in December that Nigeria has been declared a “Country of Particular Concern (CPC),” a designation which provides the U.S. with increased options for pressuring the Nigerian government to curb abuses, including through financial sanctions, application of the Magnitsky Act, and other measures.

Nigeria’s Muhammadi Buhari regime is, at the very best, inept. More likely, he and his henchmen are—as is widely believed—complicit in the relentless attacks perpetrated by Boko Haram, ISWAP, and Fulani jihadis.

Meanwhile, as the United States prepares to inaugurate a new president and his administration, two related questions remain unanswered: What will it take to stop the ever-increasing massacres and emergent genocide of Christians in Nigeria? And what will the newly-minted Biden administration do about it?

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