- The Washington Times - Monday, May 21, 2001

This is a loving letter to people I never have met face to face but admire every day. They devote their most precious possessions — time and energy — to helping the persecuted of society, and its slaves, real slaves with welts and chains. I meet these people I am writing to, and their organizations, by fax and e-mail. They help inform and educate me, for which I thank them, every day.
This column is also an irritated letter to friends I see all the time and whose talents fill me with delight, often awe, but allow themselves to ignore or push out religious persecution or slaves from their minds, work or sense of reality.
There is in the world a collection of persecutions sucking their power from race hate, religion, nationality, class, caste, sex. And there is a zoo full of social assassins race-hate specialists, drug trade entrepreneurs from the street to the Foreign Office, dictators and their vassals, market manipulators and just plain rapists and thieves.
I am constantly told we cannot get involved against all of them, as if that were a marvelous excuse for not getting involved against any. But in a free country, we can have a hand in almost all, by the way we spend our tax-based or private money, or dont, by the people we elect and by the laws they pass or dont.
So lets go straight to two particular forms of oppression especially pertinent to America religious persecution and slavery. We have acted as if both had gone from the world. They are here, with us now.
In the Sudan, a 20-year-old war is carried on by the Islamic government in the North, a scorched-earth, scorched humanity war against Christians and members of African native religions in the South. Millions have been slaughtered by air raids and famine planned by their enemy. So many scores of thousands have been carried off by Northern troops that they cannot be counted with any degree of accuracy.
But in America and some other Western lands, young people in the schools and universities keep the agony of the slaves electronically known around the world for those who might care.
So far, about all most Western governments have returned is cantankerous advice from U.N. members that to purchase slaves for the purpose of freeing them just strengthens the slave market and is evil. But comment from Western governments and businesses about the secret treasuries kept to free their own kidnapped executives have you heard a word?
The U.S. has not joined this clandestine alliance with slave owners, but Canadian and other Western businessmen strengthen Sudan by oil development similar to investing in Confederate cotton plantations while the Civil War was raging.
And I have seen only one piece of journalism, by Roger Rosenblatt in Vanity Fair in July 1993, that made readers feel the agony of slavery in Sudan.
Once a year, the U.S. government tells us something about persecution in China of Christians, Buddhists and now the Fulan Gong spiritual movement in a congressionally mandated human rights report with no mandated follow-through.
Presidents, the State Department, the economic and commercial departments, all have almost nothing to say about the roundups of hundreds of thousands of believers, mostly Christians, who refuse to worship in churches whose leadership and permitted words of worship are ordained by a communist bureau of religion.
Plain and simple, American motivation for ignoring persecution is trade profit. I am afraid I chuckle when Communist China takes American capitalism for another ride.
The money the U.S. provides for China supports the Chinese Army and Politburo, which both enforce control of churches, including prison punishment of those who disobey. Chinese motivation lies in the dictatorships terror of all uncontrolled thought, which includes free religious worship and thinking.
So any public word about their religious devotion made by members of Congress, or by the president and his wife, any photographed Bible-clutching attendance at church services, become icily hypocritical.
Tourists see nothing of the persecution. They worship if they wish but only at the strictly regulated churches. The free underground churches are closed or burned down. Tourists who search them out risk arrest for their Chinese friends. Theres no sign President Bush will choose freedom of religion for trade profit, any more than did his father or former President Clinton.
The slaves and the religiously persecuted are lastingly grateful to the students and their teachers who have never forgotten them. But they also need, desperately, the chance to be grateful to Americans of renown who still push slavery and religious persecution from their minds, work or sense of reality.

A.M. Rosenthal, the former executive editor of the New York Times, is a nationally syndicated columnist.


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