Remain Vigilant

Virginia Congressman Frank Wolf requested information from the acting assistant Secretary of State for democracy, human rights and labor after hearing his testimony at a Congressional Human Rights Caucus hearing that Wolf chaired.

Wolf is chairman of the House Appropriations subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, State and Judiciary and the co-chairman of the Congressional Human Rights Caucus.

The State Department estimates that “roughly 10 Catholic bishops, scores of Catholic priests and house church leaders, 100-300 Tibetan Buddhists, hundreds (perhaps thousands) of Falun Gong adherents, and an unknown but possibly significant number of Muslims are in various forms of detention in China for the expression of their religious or spiritual beliefs.”

“The Chinese government has exhibited a consistent disregard for the most basic of human rights — the freedom to worship,” Wolf said. “I have long been concerned by the government's treatment of their own citizens. This letter confirms that conditions have not improved, and in fact by some accounts may have worsened.

“America has a rich heritage of championing human rights on behalf of the oppressed people of the world,” he said. “Now, more than ever, we must remain vigilant.”

Another emerging world crisis can be found in Macedonia, where more than 10,000 refugees have crossed into Kosovo to escape escalating violence. Fighting between ethnic Albanian rebels and Macedonia forces has spread towards the capital of Skopje. It is expected that the number of refugees will surpass the current 40,000. Catholic Relief Services (CRS) is preparing to receive and care for those who have arrived in the last 48 hours.

“This is a crucial time for Macedonia and CRS is doing everything it can to promote peace in the country,” said Tom Price, CRS regional information advisor. “We are also very concerned about the Kosovar families who have so generously opened their homes to refugees. Many of these families are struggling themselves now because there are many more mouths to feed.”

CRS is working with Caritas Kosova to provide material assistance, including food, water, baby packs and hygiene packs. CRS is also providing material assistance to host families in Kosovo, as many that have provided shelter assistance to refugees are becoming less able to meet the needs of their own families.

CRS is working with El Hilal, a local Muslim organization in Macedonia, to provide relief items to villages near Tetovo. The agency continues working with leaders in both ethnic-Albanian and Macedonian communities in Macedonia to foster peace between the ethnic groups. CRS' educational program with schools in Macedonia promotes a message of ethnic tolerance. In a number of mixed communities, CRS has successfully brought together Albanian and Macedonian parents to work together on projects to improve decaying school infrastructure.

CRS has worked in the region for nearly a decade and has offices in Macedonia and Kosovo carrying out a number of relief and development programs, including in education and micro-finance. During the 1999 Kosovo crisis, CRS humanitarian relief efforts included distribution of food and non-food items to over 300,000 beneficiaries.

(This article courtesy of the Arlington Catholic Herald.)

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