- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 29, 2002

The Rev. Steven L. Snyder, a tireless global traveler and advocate for voiceless Christians abroad who faced religious persecution under communist and Islamic regimes, died Tuesday night of an infection. He was 54.
The evangelical minister, a native of the San Diego area, began his advocacy work as the U.S. director of Christian Solidarity International, which in the 1980s focused on persecution under communism. In 1995, he founded International Christian Concern to extend the work to Islamic countries.
The Silver Spring resident and father of four was acknowledged yesterday as a pioneer voice on the topic of Christian persecution when it was not high on Washington's human rights agenda.
Mr. Snyder also took risks to penetrate such countries as Sudan, Vietnam, Cuba, Saudi Arabia, Indonesia, China and Pakistan to bring out accurate information, documents and video footage of underground churches or persecuted minorities.
"He was a faithful servant of people persecuted for their faith," said U.S. Ambassador at Large for Religious Liberty John V. Hanford III, who had met and worked with Mr. Snyder in 1985. "He stayed with it despite the constant discouragement that comes with human rights work."
"Steven labored in this vineyard long before the movement against persecution captured the imagination of evangelicals," said the Rev. Richard Cizik, Washington director of the National Association of Evangelicals. "What a faithful friend he was of the persecuted."
Friends and human-rights workers who knew Mr. Snyder noted his on-the-ground work, desire to highlight those who suffered rather than himself, and a kind of perpetual sad look in his eyes from seeing such grim events abroad and so little interest at home.
"When not many people cared about this issue, he worked at it faithfully and strenuously," said Paul Marshall, a scholar of religion with Freedom House. "He didn't just report, he went to dangerous places. He did his research with his boots on."
Dr. David Harding, a family physician who is on the six-member board of International Christian Concern, traveled to Indonesia with Mr. Snyder in November to provide medical aid to Christians being persecuted by Muslims on the island of Sulawesi.
"Steve is going to be very difficult to replace," Dr. Harding said. "He made every effort to get the facts right, and he had a way of finding all the right people and getting at the truth of a situation."
Pat Bradley, a St. Louis businessman who first met Mr. Snyder in 1999, recalls their two-week fact-finding tip to Sudan in February 2000.
"For two days we drove into the south from Uganda on what we thought was the bumpiest road in the world, until we got to Sudan's roads," Mr. Bradley said. "Between us we had seen bad places, but by far this was the worst."
It was 105-degree bush country, he said. "These people had literally nothing. No food or clothing. They were victims of a scorched-earth policy, and some were tortured."
On return from Sudan in 2000, Mr. Snyder drafted a detailed report for Capitol Hill and the State Department, and made it available to news organizations.
During a trip to China in 1999, Mr. Snyder brought in Bibles and met with leaders of the underground church. Some of the people who went to hear his presentations remember the vivid images and footage he brought back of nighttime river baptisms.
Staff at the State Department yesterday also took the news with sorrow. One staffer asked a reporter whether Mr. Snyder had worked at State because everybody knew him.
"Steve was a foot soldier for religious freedom," said Tom Phar, director of international religious liberty at the State Department. "He traveled the world working on behalf of people being persecuted for their faith. He was an effective advocate and a good friend."
On Monday afternoon, Mr. Snyder was rushed to the Holy Cross Hospital emergency room with a high fever, and friends recall that because the diagnosis was severe he asked them to "pray for a miracle." He died about 7:45 p.m.
Mr. Snyder lost his spleen in an operation six years ago, and doctors said that weakened his ability to fight the infection, which rapidly taxed his entire system.
He is survived by his wife, Connie Snyder of Silver Spring, and four children: Sarah de Vuyst of Ukraine; Lori Slaubaugh of Rollin, N.D.; Joshua Snyder of Boulder, Colo.; and Sean, 16.
Visitations may be made tomorrow from 2 to 4 p.m. and from 7 to 9 p.m. at Collins Funeral Home at 500 University Blvd. W. in Silver Spring. A funeral service will be held 10 a.m. Saturday at Immanuel's Church at 16819 New Hampshire Ave. in Silver Spring.
In lieu of flowers, the family asked that donations "to help the persecuted church" be sent to International Christian Concern, 2020 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, Box 941, Washington, DC 20006-1846.

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