by David Mundy
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Jubilee Campaign is an international human rights organization that is harnessing political pressure and advocacy to make a difference for persecuted Christians around the world. For example, they recently sponsored a Congressional delegation that highlighted religious persecution, particularly as it relates to the Dalits (or "Untouchables"), and established an ongoing dialogue between Christian congressmen and their Indian counterparts.
Founded in the British Parliament in the mid-eighties, Jubilee opened a Washington, D.C., branch in 1991. Though their main focus is on religious liberty and freedom of conscience, they also advocate against the trafficking of women and on behalf of at-risk children.
"Jubilee's approach has always been simple," says founder and UK Director Danny Smith. "We take up specific projects and campaigns that are capable of bringing real change to real people. Our approach is to partner with ministries on the ground, to create national and international political pressure, and to raise the public's awareness and mobilize action."
For instance, Jubilee Campaign is currently gearing up on a campaign concerning India, where the situation for Christians is growing progressively worse. At least four states have already passed anti-conversion laws and a national law is in the works. These laws insidiously prevent the poor, including the Dalits, from freely making a faith-based decision and unfairly target Christian organizations that minister to them.
Due to the caste system, which is still recognized to varying degrees, Christian organizations that provide education, vocational training, or rehabilitation to the Dalits are seen as a threat to the status quo. This perception, along with growing Hindu religious nationalism, has led to increasingly violent attacks against Christian workers, churches, and organizations.
On January 16, Hindu extremists stormed a mission premises in northern India where they distributed defamatory pamphlets, chanted anti-Christian slogans, disrupted classes, and tore down posters of Jesus. Violence against Christians spread rapidly throughout that state and neighboring Gujarat State,where thousands of minority Muslims were massacred in February, 2002, by religious extremists bent on "Hinduizing" all of India. One pastor reported that several Pentecostal and Roman Catholic churches had been burned and that nearly 100 churches were not able to meet on Sunday.
However, the situation is not entirely bleak. "We have seen first-hand what the power of prayer and positive action can accomplish," says Ann Buwalda, U.S. director of Jubilee Campaign. "We are committed to justice and freedom for the people of India, and we are going to take their case to the U.S. government, to the United Nations, and to Christians around the world."
Jubilee Campaign functions on a number of different levels. In India, the organization built and operates homes to care for the daughters of prostitutes in Bombay's notorious red-light districts. Internationally, Jubilee Campaign uses its Special Consultative Status with the United Nations to raise concerns at a global level. In the U.S., plans are underway to host informative conferences in several congressional districts; and Jubilee Campaign continues to encourage government officials to make a difference in India.
However, Jubilee Campaign is not exclusively focused on India. Last year, it sponsored a similar delegation to Southeast Asia and a UK parliamentary delegation to North Korea. Jubilee Campaign fact-finding teams visited a number of countries including Indonesia and Pakistan. A television series, The Suffering Church, that aired internationally, was also co-produced by Jubilee Campaign. Being fully staffed by volunteers, 100 percent of the money raised by Jubilee Campaign goes directly to the designated projects.
Jubilee Campaign's Website, www.jubileecampaign.org, acts as a clearing house for information on the persecuted church worldwide. Visitors can sign up to receive free email updates. Resources are also available for pastors and churches including assistance in starting prayer groups and free monthly bulletin inserts. Call toll-free 1-877-654-4331 or write firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
"Jubilee Campaign has engaged with regimes of every ilk, in championing the rights of people suffering for their religious beliefs," says Lord David Alton, an independent member of the House of Lords and co-founder of Jubilee Campaign in the British Parliament. "Landslides start when small stones move, and as Jubilee's work goes forward we should see ourselves as the small stones working for the landslides and recognize that if the enterprise is truly of God then none of these challenges is insuperable."
David Mundy is a writer for Jubilee Campaign
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