- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 2, 2002

A hundred Christian leaders yesterday said U.S. human rights policy should crack down on Sudan and North Korea as the worst violators of religious liberty.

In a "statement of conscience" drafted by the National Association of Evangelicals and Freedom House, the second Summit for Christian Leaders on Religious Persecution also said China indirectly would be policed because it aids the two regimes.

The group intends to force "special attention" on these two regimes in the hope that "achieving clear victories on behalf of their persecuted communities of faith will also have powerful and positive ripple effects" in other oppressive countries.

North Korea is one of five remaining communist dictatorships. Sudan is a radical Muslim regime.

The "strategic plan of action" was issued after an afternoon forum here that looked at the two countries. It drew lawmakers and prompted a letter by President Bush.

"Let's bring the light of day to these things," said Sen. Sam Brownback, Kansas Republican.

He credited a similar summit statement of conscience in 1996 with starting a new religious liberty movement. "Don't give up the movement now. Put more into it," he said.

Since the 1996 summit, which also was organized by evangelicals and human rights advocates who are Catholic and Jewish, the State Department has set up a special ambassador to promote religious liberty and requires an annual report on the problem's status.

Congress also formed the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom as a watchdog group.

Still, summit leaders said, Christians abroad more than ever face imprisonment, torture, slavery, denial of food during famine, anti-Christian propaganda, killing of converts, destruction of Bibles and churches, and assassination of clergy.

Organizers said a key legislative initiative is the Sudan Peace Act, which the House adopted and which penalizes foreign investors in the African regime's oil industry.

"We are making the choice between dollars and lives," said Rep. Spencer Bachus, Alabama Republican and sponsor of the amendment to deny access to the U.S. stock market to investors in Sudanese oil.

Nina Shea of Freedom House said the statement will be circulated nationally to generate pressure on the Senate to pass the Sudan legislation.

"The most important thing is to contact your senator," she said. "Vigils and protests also are important."

Episcopal Bishop Henry Riak of Sudan told his story of five years in prison and seeing execution of Christians who would not convert to Islam. "They accused me of being against Islam," he said.

Yesterday's statement recognized the existence of both violent and moderate Islamic views because evangelicals disagree on whether the religion is inherently sinister or "hijacked" by radicals, as President Bush has said.

Lee Soon Ok, who was reared an atheist in North Korea and then became Christian, told of her seven years of imprisonment. "In North Korea, those who believe in God are the cruel target of persecution," she said.

German doctor Norbert Vollertsen amplified the Korean woman's account, noting that in the 1½ years he worked there before being expelled he saw leaders drive Mercedes-Benzes and children starving.

"I saw a lot of dying children," he said. "There is no medicine, there are no bandages, there is no running water; there is nothing in North Korean hospitals."

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