Chairman’s Report — April 3, 2014
Religious Freedom Suffers a Great Loss
Death of Religious Freedom Coalition Board Member – The Very Reverend Keith Roderick, our brother in the Lord and a member of the Board of Directors of the Religious Freedom
Coalition, has passed away. Father Keith, as most called him, died in his sleep at home at age 61, greatly to be missed by the oppressed of this world. His loss was mourned by many around the world.
Father Keith Roderick was no newcomer to the cause of helping victims of religious persecution in many countries of the world. In 1982 he founded the Society of St. Stephen for religious prisoners of conscience and their families. He was also Co-Director of the International Task Force on Soviet Jewry. These groups advocated for and assisted persecuted Christians and Jews in the former Soviet Union.
Before 9-11, when most Westerners had not heard of the extremism of Islam, he helped to found the Coalition for the Defense of Human Rights (CDHR), for which he had been Secretary General since 1992. That organization exposed the brutality of Islamic doctrine and educated many on dhimmitude – the slave like treatment of non-Muslims in Islamic societies.
He also served for several years as the Washington, D.C. representative for Christian Solidarity International and as co-director of the Sudan Campaign. Over the years Father Keith redeemed slaves and persecuted Christians from Sudan and South Sudan. So committed was he that he and his wife, Mary Beth, adopted a Sudanese baby girl whose parents had been martyred for the cause of Christ during the brutal crackdown by the Muslim government of dictator Omar al-Bashir, who has murdered tens of thousands of Christians.
The Very Reverend Keith Roderick also participated in numerous fact finding missions including several with me. During one of those missions to Jordan and Lebanon, he worked tirelessly to assist Christians who had been forced to flee Iraq during the ten year war fought there by American forces against al-Qaeda and other like groups.
Father Keith also assisted in programs with the Institute on Religion and Democracy and its president, Faith McDonald. Most of his adult life the major concern of Father Keith was the oppressed for the cause of the Lord.
As a member of the Board of Directors of the Religious Freedom Coalition for more than a decade, he was invaluable. At the time of his death Father Keith was one of the operating directors of the Religious Freedom Coalition’s newest program, Christmas for Refugees.
The program, begun in 2013, operated a first of its kind Christmas dinner for Christian refugee children from Syria. The dinner program began in Jordan, and Father Keith was using his numerous contacts in Lebanon to prepare for a 2014 expansion of the program in that nation. He saw the needs of Syrian Christian refugees and stepped forward to help.
At the time of his death he was serving the Episcopal Diocese of Springfield, Illinois full time as Provost of the Cathedral Church of St. Paul. Father Keith had previously served under the Rt. Rev. Keith Ackerman in the Diocese of Quincy as the Episcopal Church’s only Canon for Persecuted Christians.
A memorial service in Washington, D.C. in celebration of his life will be held later in the spring of 2014.
Father Keith is survived by his wife Mary Beth, their six children, one grandchild, both his parents and his brothers and sisters.
Father Keith will be greatly missed by all those who worked with him on numerous projects to assist the oppressed, as well as by those in his congregation, family and friends. He was a man who stood tall, with a gentle heart and a gentle hand.
Father Keith and the Christmas program – As mentioned above Father Keith Roderick was a warrior for the faith and for the persecuted faithful. His contacts with Christians in the Middle East were invaluable. As an example it was Father Keith who arranged the first meeting between Isam Ghattas and me in Amman, Jordan. Isam and his Evangelical organization, Manara Ministries, are now full time partners in Jordan in the delivery of aid.
Both Father Keith and I have carried suitcases stuffed with medical supplies such as antibiotics to Amman to give to Christian operated clinics.
In Lebanon it was Father Keith who was arranging with Christian leaders and churches to expand the Christmas for Refugees program. He had the full trust of many who had been betrayed far too many times in the past. Working to establish the kind of relationships he had developed over decades will be difficult; however, it is my goal to continue with the program in Lebanon. I do not know if we will be able to expand to the extent I had hoped, but we will try. Without Father Keith Roderick’s help, our work in Lebanon will be long and arduous. Please pray for us at RFC, and for the Roderick family.
Godly men in Congress – I do not write often enough about my meetings on Capitol Hill and I should, to counter much of the disinformation in the media. Sadly the vast majority of the people have a very unfavorable view of the Congress because the media rarely has news about congressmen and Senators that is correct. The media, including conservative bloggers, constantly bash congressmen without any real knowledge of who they are or what they do.
Steve Southerland, a congressman from Florida, is just one of the great congressmen on Capitol Hill, of which there are many. This past week I spent nearly two hours at a luncheon with Rep. Steve Southerland, attended by just ten people. I already knew that he was a wonderful Christian gentleman and very aware of the issues facing our nation both economically and spiritually.
As do many good congressmen, Steve Southerland works at least eighty (80) hours a week. He works on average four days a week on Capitol Hill when Congress is in session. Often the combination of hearings and votes takes up ten to twelve hours a day. (And unlike Nancy Pelosi, Steve thinks it best to know what’s in a bill before voting on it.) Somehow in the middle of this, he must deal with a steady stream of his constituents who show up at his office to discuss both important issues and yes, just to chat. Every congressman has to have at least one trained intern to take constituents on a private tour of the Capitol when they show up unexpectedly.
Every Friday that Congress is in session, Steve jumps on a commerical flight to Florida to be in his district with his family. On Saturday he is usually in his district office, once again talking to his constituents and dealing with matters that are important locally. Many of those who want to speak with him are locally elected officials such as city councilmen, mayors and state legislators in his district.
During the “district work weeks” which the media refer to as a congressional “recess” Steve also travels around his district visiting businesses, schools and individuals explaining what is going on in Congress and how they can help. When not working, Steve Southerland often volunteers to work with the poor. He is a firm believer in charity rather than government handouts.
During our lunch he talked to me about some of the public schools he visited in his last trip back to his district. He told me he speaks for just a short time at the schools in order to allow the students to be able to ask him questions, as this gives him a feel for the issues that are important not only to them but inside of their homes.
When back in his district, Steve must also raise money — lots of money — to help him get reelected. This time around the daughter of a well-known former Florida Senator is running against him. She is a radical pro-abortion, pro-gay agenda leftist. She thinks ObamaCare didn’t go far enough, and that the government should take over the entire health care industry.
Back to the lunch … This was a small lunch. I was the only social conservative at the lunch. The other eight invited guests represented industries with facilities in his district. When the food was served and before anyone could take a bite, Congressman Steve Southerland said, “Let’s say grace.” He bowed his head and thanked God for His Grace in sending the Lord Jesus Christ, and thanked Him for the food we were about to receive. You and I need to pray that men of God such as Steve Southerland will continue to serve in Congress.
Then there is the bad on Capitol Hill – I spend most of my time on Capitol Hill, not in the Middle East. My main job is advocacy, being on Capitol Hill to advocate for religious freedom and the core moral beliefs of believing Christians. I travel to the Middle East just enough to be able to examine the processes we have in place and to make sure that the funds you send are being used in the most efficient and proper way to deliver needed aid to Christian refugees.
I go to a lot of meetings on Capitol Hill that have virtually nothing to do with religious issues – BUT- that is why I am there. I often get a laugh at some of these meetings when I refer to myself as the “token social conservative.” In reality I am often the only one in the room giving a perspective from a biblical point of view on such issues as relations with Russia or the use of military force.
The one criticism that I have of many of the other Christian leaders here in Washington is that they are not in those rooms with me. Many of the representatives of the big name Christian organizations are only at the meetings that directly concern their issues, such as abortion or same-sex marriage. I believe our views must also be represented on international and spending issues, as well as high profile social issues. My presence also changes the character of the meetings.
I also often bring to meetings people from the Middle East and Africa who make everyone present – particularly the elected leaders – uncomfortable. They don’t know how to react to real, live persecuted Christians whom they have ignored. They can’t tell me not to come; I have been around up here so long (before many of them ever arrived in Washington) that I am sort of like the furniture in the room. I am just there, regardless of whether they like the way I look or not.
Sometimes I do things that really make congressmen and Senators in the Republican Party uncomfortable, like showing up with a photo of Sen. John McCain posing with a neo-Nazi and asking them, “Why is he with this guy?” They get even more uncomfortable when I ask why we are selling fighter jets and modern tanks to the Saudi king, who has people whipped to death in the public square for writing a blog asking for a democratic vote in that despotic nation.
Last week a Pakistani court sentenced to death yet another Christian for “insulting Mohammed.” I asked a Senator that same day why the USA was giving more than a billion dollars a year to Pakistan, without asking that nation to stop executing Christians for blasphemy. The answer to my question was a blank stare.
Bottom line is that I do my best on Capitol Hill to bring awareness, to reach out and thank congressmen and Senators who stand up for what is morally right and who are not afraid to thank their Savior in public. At the same time I do my best to embarrass those who would hand our tax dollars to Islamic murderers and support an immoral agenda in our own nation.
Thank you for your support and your prayers for my work here in Washington, DC.
William J. Murray, Chairman
Religious Freedom Coalition, 601 Pennsylvania Ave. NW #900, Washington, DC 20004 * (202) 742-8990
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