Religious freedom loses its voice in the U.S.


Date:              October 24, 2013


Flickr_Suzan Johnson Cook (180x117) 10-24-13.jpg

(U.S. Mission Photo by Eric Bridiers via Flickr)

USA (MNN) ― You would think the stepping-down of a key voice for global religious freedom would cause a bit of a stir. But so far, it's gone seemingly unnoticed.

Last week, several reports announced Suzanne Johnson Cook's resignation as Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom. Cook's decision comes following a mere 17 months on the job.

Religion News Service first broke the news with an October 16 report and was followed by reports from WORLD News Group and Christianity Today.

On Monday, two evangelical leaders issued statements via Christian Newswire regarding Cook's departure.

"I'm sorry to see the Ambassador go, but I believe God has even greater things for her to do from here," stated Rev. Dr. Rob Schenck, president of a ministry to top officials in Washington, D.C. and chairman of the Evangelical Church Alliance.

Ann Buwalda, director of the Jubilee Campaign, told WORLD News Group that Cook had done nothing "to advance religious liberty or dissuade the persecution of religious minorities in any country.

"She pointlessly traveled to at least two countries, Ghana and Liberia, which have no religious freedom issue whatsoever," said Buwalda. "Her departure will not be missed because her tenure was so unremarkable."

Created by the 1998 International Religious Freedom Act, this position is a key voice for religious freedom. Primary responsibilities of the Ambassador at Large include advancing the right to religious freedom worldwide, condemning violations of that right, and recommending appropriate responses from the U.S. when violations occur.

"Whatever the reason for her [Cook's] departure, the vacancy provides a dramatic opportunity for the Obama administration to adopt an aggressive, effective strategy of advancing religious freedom abroad," Thomas Farr told Christianity Today.

Farr served as the first director of the State Department's religious freedom office and currently directs the Religious Freedom Project at Georgetown University.

"If the position remains vacant, or if it is filled with someone not qualified to move this issue into the mainstream of diplomacy, that will confirm the views of the critics--including me--that the [Obama] administration does not see IRF policy as a priority."

A week has passed and there's still no official press release concerning Cook's resignation. The State Department has yet to announce a replacement. Pray that the person God wants to fill this void is chosen.

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