Features

Experiences have consequences

"Experiences have consequences" Continued...

Issue: "On the road again," May 9, 2009

The Commission was founded by an act of Congress in 1998; the purpose was to monitor religious persecution and torture around the world, and the lack of respect for religious liberty around the world, and to write up a report for Congress, the State Department, and the White House detailing those countries that are the greatest violators of religious freedom around the globe.
Has it been a good experience for you?

It's been a wonderful experience. It may sound clichéd, but I've been in 16 countries in that position, and every time I come back I say to my wife, "We really take a lot for granted." I even tell her not to talk to me about "Christmas Wars": We can say "Merry Christmas," but there are people in other countries who get thrown in prison for five years for doing something slight like handing out leaflets. We take a lot for granted here, and we have a lot of wonderful freedoms and liberties here.
Have things gotten any better in any of these countries since 2004?

The government of Vietnam has opened up economically and is trying to open up religiously. But it's hard for totalitarian and communist regimes to understand what religious freedom really means. They think it means, "We let them sing. We let them have Bibles." But they don't let them grow, proselytize, or speak about it outside their meeting places.
Any progress in other countries?

Saudi Arabia has some awful things written in textbooks about Christians and Jews-just hideous. We've pushed and pushed, and have used our press releases and reports to shame these -people through the press. Saudi Arabia is not reformed, but we're going to hold their feet to the fire. North Korea is still the worst country in all the world. Sudan is a really sad situation.
What's your view of President Obama?

Some of his fans are going to have the same problem that fans of Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush had: expecting more from him than he can deliver. Obama mania is worse than Reagan mania. It's worse than any expectations we had for President Bush. So the letdown is going to come, because we live in a broken, fractured world. Working for social justice means that we live in an ambiguous world where the choices we have are never the choices we want.
What was it like to be the mascot of the Philadelphia 76ers?

I was in graduate school at American University and through Chuck Colson's ministry met Pat Williams, the general manager of the Philadelphia 76ers. The 76ers wanted someone who was extroverted and knew the game of basketball. I interviewed for the position and they said, "You may be funny in person, but in the costume you don't talk. Can you move your body around?" I said, "Yeah, I can do that." And I passed the interview. I was at all the home games.
Your professors understood the importance of your position?

I looked through my course work for graduate school and realized I was going to be missing six classes out of 14. I went to my professor and asked for permission to miss class because I had a job in the evenings. He asked, "What are you doing?" I told him I was the mascot for the 76ers. He said, "That's a great excuse. We'll make sure to get you the notes." It was a great time.

Marvin Olasky
Marvin Olasky

Marvin is editor in chief of WORLD News Group and the author of more than 20 books, including The Tragedy of American Compassion. Follow Marvin on Twitter @MarvinOlasky.

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