Cindy Ortiz

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Egyptian Christian women forced to marry, convert to Islam, reports say

WASHINGTON (BP)--Coptic Christian women in Egypt are being forced to marry and convert to Islam and that oppression is part of a larger pattern of persecution against Christians facilitated by the Egyptian government, according to two recent reports.

U.S. lobbyist for Sudan nixed

WASHINGTON (BP)--Efforts by the Sudanese government to hire a U.S. lobbyist have been stopped, according to The Washington Post.       An application seeking approval of a lobbying contract was submitted to the Treasury Department but rejected by Maj. Gen. J. Scott Gration, the special U.S. envoy to Sudan.       Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough, a law firm in Atlanta, wanted permission for a lobbyist on behalf of the Sudanese government, which is based in the city of Khartoum. The firm dropped the effort in October after its application was denied.       Sudan's militant Islamic regime has backed genocidal campaigns against both Christians and moderate Muslims over the last 25 years.       During the last six years in the country's western region of Darfur, Khartoum military forces and Arab militias supported by the government have instituted ethnic cleansing against African Muslims, resulting in the killing of about 400,000 people, as well as rampant torture, rape and kidnapping, the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) has reported. About two million Sudanese are homeless in Darfur and another 250,000 are in refugee camps in Chad and the Central African Republic, according to USCIRF.       While Darfur's crisis involves conflict between Arab Muslims and African Muslims, a civil war of more than 20 years that ended in 2005 involved a campaign by the Khartoum regime against Christians and animists in southern Sudan, as well as moderate, African Muslims. The Comprehensive Peace Agreement that closed that war has yet to be fully implemented.       In a letter to President Obama before the application was denied, Rep. Frank Wolf, R.-Va., urged Obama to block the hiring of a lobbyist to represent Sudan.       "This would be a disgrace and must not be permitted to take place under any circumstances," said Wolf, co-chair of the Congressional Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission. "Too often lobbyists are viewed as granting access ... the only thing they lack is the political will to bring about a lasting peace in Sudan. And no lobbyist can manufacture that."       Having a U.S. lobbyist for the Sudanese government would not have been a first.       Robert Cabelly, former State Department official, had a contract with Sudan as a U.S. lobbyist from 2005 to 2006. He recently was indicted on several charges -- including violating sanctions and money laundering -- from his involvement with Sudan, according to The Post.       A revised administration strategy on Sudan that refocuses attention on fully implementing the Comprehensive Peace Agreement will help the east African country recover from its current conditions, officials said.

Congress examines China’s coercive one-child policy

WASHINGTON (BP)--Congress heard testimony Nov. 10 regarding China's one-child policy, which employs widespread forced abortions and sterilization as population control methods, ahead of President Obama's trip to the communist nation.       Witnesses before the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission noted that pregnancies in China must be authorized by the government. The hearing occurred two days before Obama left for Asia Nov. 12 to meet with Chinese officials.       This year marks the 30th anniversary of China's one-child policy, which was implemented to curb the birth rate of the world's most populous country. It limits women to one child, although exceptions are made, especially in some rural areas for couples whose first child is a girl. The policy has been enforced somewhat differently recently, the commission was told.       A measure codifying the policy, the Law of Population and Family Planning of the People's Republic of China, went into effect in 2002. The family planning officials "illegally" enforce the law through forced abortions and sterilizations, lawyer Jiang Tianyong said at the hearing. Jiang has been persecuted for defending human rights activists.       In its 2009 report issued in October, the Congressional-Executive Commission on China said, "'Termination of pregnancy' is explicitly required if a pregnancy does not conform with provincial population planning regulations in Anhui, Hebei, Heilongjiang, Hubei, Hunan, Jilin, Liaoning and Ningxia provinces."       All couples are required to apply for a birth permit before a pregnancy. If a couple has an unauthorized pregnancy, it must be terminated. After having the limited number of children -- one in most areas -- a spouse must be sterilized. Refusal results in forced sterilization. If the couple has more than one child, the woman will be forced to have an abortion, Harry Wu, director of Laogai Research Foundation, said at the hearing.       Families that abide by the law and get abortions receive a "One Child Parent Glory" certificate, something the government is using to "beautify" the policy, Annie Jing Zhang of Women's Rights in China told the commission.

ENDA ‘would burden’ religious groups

WASHINGTON (BP)--Some religious organizations will be prevented from acting on their beliefs in making employment decisions regarding homosexuals, bisexuals and transgender people if the Employment Non-Discrimination Act is passed, a Senate committee has been told.

Chinese lawyers face govt. oppression

WASHINGTON (BP)--Religious freedom activists in China are not the only ones needing a lawyer; their lawyers also are being attacked by the government.

Students speak for unborn in silence

WASHINGTON (BP)–Twenty thousand students worldwide recently took part in a silent protest against abortion for the sixth consecutive year. The Stand True ministry again sponsored the Pro-Life Day of Silent Solidarity, with students at more than 4,000 locations in 25 countries participating, said Bryan Kemper, president of the ministry. “We already know of at least […]

D.C. rally calls for citywide vote on ‘gay marriage’

WASHINGTON (BP)--Citizens of America's capital rallied Sunday in an effort to persuade the District of Columbia government to permit them to vote on the legalization "of same-sex marriage."       The outdoor rally, led by area pastors, was held the day before the D.C. Board of Elections and Ethics conducted a hearing on whether a proposal to legalize "gay marriage" should be placed on the ballot for district voters. On Monday a committee of the D.C. Council held the first part of a two-day hearing on a bill to legalize "gay marriage." Ten of the council's 13 members are sponsoring the proposal, which would not provide for a vote by D.C. citizens.       "We are in a David-and-Goliath situation," said Harry Jackson, senior pastor of Hope Christian Church in Beltsville, Md., and chairman of Stand for Marriage D.C. "The city council is out of control, but I believe that if we humble ourselves and pray, God is going to make a miracle among us."       The Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) joined in the effort. A letter from ERLC President Richard Land to 165 Southern Baptist pastors in the D.C. area warned them of the pending legislation and encouraged them to attend the rally. Barrett Duke, the ERLC's vice president for public policy, spoke to rally participants.

Pregnancy resource centers save lives, report says

WASHINGTON (BP)--Mallory Hitt could have been aborted after her mother was raped but instead was placed for adoption because her mother chose to go to a pregnancy resource center. Now she is a dean's list student hoping to achieve a law degree.       Hitt shared her story at the National Press Club, where the Family Research Council released a new report detailing the impact of pregnancy resource centers nationwide in curbing the abortion epidemic and improving the lives of pregnant women in need.       "Had my birthmother not turned to the pregnancy center for help, I might not have left her womb intact. I am glad to be alive and feel an obligation to let people know that pregnancy centers are good for America because they really help women and children," Hitt, a student at Regent University in Virginia Beach, Va., said.       The FRC report, "A Passion to Serve, A Vision for Life," is available at www.aPassionToServe.org and includes information on how pregnancy resource centers in the United States and worldwide have made a difference. Release of the report coincided with the 40-year anniversary of the pregnancy resource center movement in the U.S.

Tiananmen Square hero honored

WASHINGTON (BP)--Twenty years after his legs were crushed by a tank in Tiananmen Square, Fang Zheng had the delight of dancing with his wife at a Capitol Hill ceremony that honored his heroism during the 1989 massacre in Beijing.

Report: U.S. officials unaware of child sex-trafficking problem

WASHINGTON (BP)--Most Americans, including far too many government officials, have no idea that children under the age of 18 are being shipped from state to state as child prostitutes, according to a report from an anti-sex trafficking organization.       In fact, an estimated 100,000 American children under 18 years of age are victimized through prostitution every year and children rented for sex acts might be raped 6,000 times over the course of five years. In addition, the United States should be -- but is not -- listed on the "Tier 2" watch list in the State Department's Trafficking in Persons Report.       Those are among the troubling findings by Shared Hope International (SHI), which conducted investigations in 10 United States cities with a grant from the U.S. Department of Justice.       "Few participants in the assessments realized that the victims described in the [federal anti-trafficking law] definition of sex trafficking victims included specifically U.S. citizen and lawful permanent resident minors under 18 years of age regardless of their perceived consent to the commercial sex activities," SHI reported.       The report also found:       -- The majority of law enforcement personnel and social service providers have little or no awareness of the Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA), the federal law that provides the means to combat trafficking in persons.       -- There is a widespread failure by police, courts and youth shelters to identify under-age victims of sex trafficking.       -- Children often are arrested and charged with prostitution, even though the TVPA says victims must not be held responsible for being forced to commit a crime.