By BosNewsLife News Center
WASHINGTON, USA (BosNewsLife)– United States President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton described international religious freedom as “important” at the annual National Prayer Breakfast, but a group investigating persecution of Christians said the administration should turn its words into deeds.
“The administration should back up these words by actions and appoint a qualified Ambassador for International Religious Freedom who has experience in international diplomacy and religious freedom issues,” said Open Doors USA in comments monitored by BosNewsLife Friday, February 5.
It comes as less than 40 days into 2010, “There are reports of major atrocities against Christians and other people of faith around the world,” the group added, including in the United States itself.
In one of the latest known attacks in the U.S, two street preachers were shot and killed by a teenager who apparently opposed their message. Tite Sufra, 24, and Stephen Ocean, 23, were shot to death late Saturday, January 30, in Boynton Beach in the U.S. State of Florida, where they evangelized, after meeting 18-year-old Jeriah Woody, local police said.
Woody was detained Wednesday, February 3, and is charged with two counts of first-degree murder.
Earlier in Africa, at least two pastors and 46 other Christians were confirmed killed and 27 believers still missing following clashes between Muslim and Christian clashes in the Nigerian town of Jos, Christians said. Several churches were also torched, according to witnesses.
Elsewhere in Africa, Open Doors said, a Christian, Hana Hagos Asgedom, died while serving time in one of Eritrea’s “harsh detention” centers. “Asgedom, who was allegedly beaten, was the 11th known Christian to die while imprisoned in Eritrea,” the well-informed group added.
In Somalia, Islamic extremists shot the leader of an underground church to death on January 1 and threatened to kill his wife after learning that he left Islam, Christians said.
Somali militants from the Islamic militant group al Shabaab reportedly murdered 41-year-old Mohammed Ahmed Ali, forcing his wife and two-year-old son who have fled to neighboring Kenya.
“It’s apparent from these three reports of persecution –and many more — there is a pressing need for the Obama administration to immediately appoint an Ambassador at Large for International Religious Freedom,” said Open Doors USA chief Carl Moeller.
The position was created in 1998 to monitor religious persecution, recommend and implement policies and advise the U.S. State Department and the administration.
However, “This key position has remained vacant for over a year. The appointment will show the world that the United States is committed to protecting and promoting those rights,” explained Moeller.
The White House has reportedly said however that “the president is committed to filling this post with the most qualified person.” No time schedule was given.
Open Doors suggested there is little time left, citing a recent Pew Research Center report which found that 70 percent of the people in the world “live in countries with high levels of restriction on religion.”
Open Doors USA said 8,000 people have already signed its petition urging President Obama to make the appointment of a qualified Ambassador at Large for International Religious Freedom a priority.
“The over 8,000 signatures in only two weeks demonstrates that people are really concerned about the delay in making this appointment and want action by the administration. It also demonstrates that people have a real passion for freedom of religion around the world,” said Open Doors USA Advocacy Director Lindsay Vessey.