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IRD: NCC Chief's Request to Visit Guantanamo Bay Prisoners is a Political Ploy That Overlooks Real Persecution Overseas

Contact: Jeff Walton, The Institute on Religion and Democracy, 202-682-4131, 202-413-5639 weekends


WASHINGTON, Sept. 19 /Christian Newswire/ -- The National Council of Churches General Secretary should seek to visit imprisoned Christians and other innocent prisoners of conscience around the world instead of just U.S.-held Islamic radicals if he truly cares about the plight of the abused, said Institute on Religion and Democracy Religious Liberties Director Faith J.H. McDonnell on Wednesday.


“There are many prisoners around the world who might better merit the Rev. Bob Edgar’s attention, if he truly is interested in human rights, rather than just contrived protests against U.S. policies in the war on terror,” said McDonnell. “These are imprisoned Christians, incarcerated by Islamic and communist regimes because of their faith.”


In an article on www.ird-renew.org, McDonnell listed 15 imprisoned prisoners of conscience around the world, some awaiting death sentences, who deserve Edgar’s attention.


On his “Middle Church” blog, the Rev. Edgar, former Democratic congressman and current general secretary of the National Council of Churches, complains that the United States government has prevented him from fulfilling the Lord’s commandment to visit prisoners.


The National Council of Churches chief had asked to visit “the children of God” (i.e. al Qaeda and Taliban prisoners) at the U.S. military detention center at Guantanamo Bay, but the request was denied.


McDonnell cited persecuted Christians in China, Vietnam, Eritrea, Indonesia, Egypt and Cuba, Tibetan Buddhists, Falun Gong practitioners, members of the Bahai faith, and the three kidnapped Israeli soldiers currently held by the terrorists as prisoners about whom Edgar has expressed little to no concern.


“Edgar, an ordained United Methodist pastor, might be expected to sympathize with imprisoned fellow Christians. But he seems to prefer the cause of the imprisoned radical Islamists at Guantanamo,” said McDonnell.


“We did not wish to make a statement,” Edgar writes on his Blog, referring to an attempted visit to prisoners held at Guantamo Bay. “We simply wanted to visit these prisoners as our Lord commands in Matthew 25: 40: 'When did we see thee sick or in prison and visit thee?' And the King will answer them, 'Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me.'


“Edgar seems to imply that these radical Islamic terrorists, captured on the battlefield, are Jesus’ brothers,” McDonnell said. “Perhaps he should turn to Matthew 12:50, where Jesus says, “Whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother." Compare that with what a detainee told his questioner at Guantanamo Bay: “I’ll never forget your face. I will kill you, your brothers, your mother, and sisters.”


“Church officials like Rev. Edgar, prefer to exploit the Guantanamo prisoners for their own political statements, rather than pray for their transformation,” said McDonnell. “We have an idea for Rev Edgar. We know some other prisoners you can visit. Unlike the Guantanamo prisoners, these prisoners are actually innocent.”