Rep. Wolf: Christians in Iraq, Afghanistan, Egypt Worse Off Today

By Christopher Goins | January 17, 2012 | 9:48 PM EST

Rep. Frank wolf (R-Va.) (AP Photo)

( – Rep. Frank Wolf (R-Va.), a long-time advocate of international religious freedom, said that Christians today are worse off in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Egypt, with some Christians saying they felt safer under Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein than they do under the current government.

At the Heritage Foundation in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 12, where Wolf was discussing his new book on religious freedom, asked the congressman,  “When it comes to Christians and other religious minorities persecuted in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Egypt, do you see their advocacy for them and their situation getting better?”

Wolf said, “No, I don’t see it getting better at all. I think its getting worse actually.”

He continued: “I met with a fellow -- as I mentioned earlier – yesterday, and if you read the papers, it’s very tough to be an Iraqi Christian. Very, very tough. We had a hearing where they actually said that life was better under Saddam than it is now for the Iraqi Christians.

“We have reports of Iraqi women living in Damascus and Lebanon -- living in ghettoes with their kids,” said Wolf. "They’ve been forced out of their country. For Coptic Christians, it’s worse. I mean, as bad as (former Egyptian President Hosni) Mubarak was, it's actually worse now. Twenty-six were killed in that riot the other day...Afghanistan, Pakistan is unraveling.”

Iraqi Christians at a funeral church service. (AP Photo)

Wolf was the lead author of the Iraq Study group under former President George W. Bush in 2006. He now says he wants to pass legislation setting up a similar Afghanistan-Pakistan study group. At the Heritage event, he said he plans to propose an amendment creating such a study group in a few weeks.

Wolf says conditions for persecuted religious minorities deteriorate when the U.S. government does not advocate publicly for religious freedoms abroad.

It's one thing to advocate privately, he indicated But it's better to emerge from a private meeting and "publicly say, '‘We advocated for this Catholic bishop. We advocated for this imam.’ Or, ‘We advocated for this person in prison.’”

Wolf said he believes that different denominations and religious leaders should advocate for each other. He mentioned Jewish communities advocating for the Refuseniks in the 1980s as one of the best examples of religious freedom advocacy.

Christians in funeral march in Iraq. (AP Photo)

“I wish that all denominations came together to advocate for every persecuted faith,” Wolf said. All denominations working together can make a “tremendous difference” in the impact for advocacy.

In an interview with after his speech, Wolf said he does not believe that the U.S. presence in Afghanistan and Iraq has eroded religious freedoms for those persecuted minorities.

“No, I think what went on in Iraq went on before,” he said.  “I don’t think so. We’ve given $50 billion in aid to Egypt, and it's worse today than when we gave them money.”

Wolf’s new book is entitled, “Prisoner of Conscience: One Man’s Crusade for Global Human and Religious Rights.”