‘Prisoner of Conscience’ Brings to Life Congressman’s Crusade for Global Human Rights
Congressman Frank R. Wolf has represented Virginia’s 10th District since 1981, and is one of the most senior members of the House of Representatives. Wolf has devoted his career to defending human rights, giving a voice to the voiceless, and has declared war on dozens of social evils of our time—human trafficking, world hunger, genocide, religious persecution, and the lack of medical care in the developing world.
Wolf chronicles his courageous adventures, from the halls of political power to the most deadly regions around the world, in his book Prisoner of Conscience. He has dared to go where few congressmen have gone before—boldly defying authorities—to places where speaking out against government policy can get you executed, thrown in prison, tortured, or turned into an involuntary organ donor.
The congressman has traveled, often in disguise, to places where thousands of forgotten people in remote corners of the world mercilessly suffer because they have committed “crimes” of promoting democracy, religious freedom and labor rights. These people are under house arrest, under strict surveillance, in hiding, raped, beaten, jailed or killed for practicing their faith.
His undercover visits have generated worldwide publicity, exposing the people suffering under China’s one-child policy, the languished political prisoners in the Soviet gulags, the bombed-out villages of Sudan and Chechnya, Tibetans suffering under the brutal control of the Chinese government, Christians in Muslim countries being persecuted for their faith, genocide in Darfur, the war zones of Afghanistan and Iraq, and more.
Wolf was the first Western government official to set foot inside a Soviet “political” labor camp, the Soviet gulag, where he probed the condition of political prisoners. He was determined to speak with as many prisoners as possible, find out how they were being treated, and tell the world what was happening to them, especially those on Perm Camp 35, a Stalinist-era camp known for its severe conditions and mistreatment of prisoners.
Wolf was a part of the first congressional delegation to visit Afghanistan after the war broke out. He went to meet the troops and to witness first-hand the ongoing humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan, which is considered the direst in recent history.
“We walked into a ward room where mothers and their severely malnourished children slept two and sometimes three to a bed. Some of the babies were laboring just to catch their breath; others were wailing in pain. One child never blinked. One out of every three babies died that night—something that, tragically, happened every night,” he writes.
Wolf has used his position as a congressman to sponsor international laws that have had a transformational impact on enforcing human rights. The Republican has convened conferences in his district and has partnered across the aisle to become an outspoken voice on human rights in Congress, emphasizing some of the problems that could bring the Right and the Left together.
“I implore you to remember the woman in Darfur who fears rape and brutalization every time she leaves the confines of her camp to collect firewood. Who speaks for her in our nation’s capital?”
The decline in U.S. power has a global domino-effect, Wolf warns. If America degenerates, then we—and everyone else—will live in a dangerous world.
“The world is a much more dangerous place when our nation is perceived as weak, or worse yet, when that perception becomes a reality,” writes Wolf.
He advises America to implement a spiritual and economic renaissance to secure national security and to protect freedom, warning that America will rapidly decline if we are indifferent to economic or moral collapse.
“If we come together to solve the problems of our nation, if we work for economic and moral rebirth, then America’s best days will yet be ahead, and the sun will truly have just begun to rise on this country,” he writes.
Wolf is the second person to whom Prison Fellowship awarded the Wilberforce Award, given annually to an individual who has made a difference in the face of dire societal problems and injustices.
The congressman unremittingly confronts power with truth, whether that power is Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush or Barack Obama, spineless congressmen or megalomaniacal despots, al-Qaeda terrorists or the world’s most ruthless totalitarian dictators.
While free people are using the Internet and democracy, today—at this very moment—genocide is taking place. Yet we seldom hear Westerners speaking out. Prisoner of Conscience provides a lucid understanding of America’s unique ability to advance the human freedom movement, and evokes a profound gratitude for liberty and the American justice system.
Wolf makes it clear that, “In order for America to truly be the ‘shining city on a hill’ envisioned by our Founders, we must continually affirm that we stand for the defenseless, champion liberty and confront injustice the world over.”