Mr. Speaker, the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe lost one of its most noble, most gifted, dedicated, effective, and kind members of our staff, Karen Lord, to the ravages of cancer on January 29 of this year. Karen was only 33–a heart-wrenching tragedy for her family, and all of us who knew and loved her. Since 1995, Karen has faithfully served as counsel for Freedom of Religion on the staff of the commission of which I serve as the cochairman. In this capacity, she diligently defended the principle of “religious liberty for all” and became one of the commission’s most trusted advisors on the subject. We will miss her wise counsel, her demonstrable passion, her wealth of knowledge, and her energetic advocacy on behalf of the persecuted church.
As counsel for Freedom of Religion, Karen meticulously monitored the fundamental “freedom of thought, conscience, religion and belief” and always would take the initiative when violations arose. She was recognized and respected in this city, within the U.S. Government, in Europe and in Central Asia as a knowledgeable, passionate, and hard-working expert on the right to freely profess and practice one’s faith. She was intolerant of religious intolerance and was a champion to all those who were disenfranchised and dispossessed. She lived the gospel, especially our Lord’s admonition in Matthew, 25, when our Lord said, “When I was in prison, did you visit me.” “Whatsoever you do to the least of my brethren you do to me.” Time and time again Karen interceded on behalf of those who were unjustly imprisoned by dictators and despotic governments. Karen always took the time and had the energy to pursue the truth, and to chronicle in a meticulous way the information about someone who was persecuted or harassed by their government, in some way put at risk because of their faith. Karen played an active role as a member of numerous U.S. delegations to meetings of the Organization on Security and Cooperation in Europe, and she was selected and served on a panel of religious liberty experts for the OSCE’s Office of Democratic Institutions and Human Rights.
Whether the interaction was with nongovernmental organizations, religious believers and clergy, academics or government authorities, Karen was an active listener, an informed interlocutor, and a vigorous and respectful advocate. She was a force with whom others had to reckon, because she was so strong and she would always stand up, on behalf of those who were persecuted for their faith. Karen surely distinguished herself as the expert on laws affecting religious communities in various countries of the OSCE region, whether the issues were in the Caucasus, Central Asia, Western Europe, or Eastern Europe. Just 3 months ago, even while she was suffering the devastation and the terrible pain of cancer, she participated in conferences in Sofia, Bulgaria and Baku and Azerbaijan, which were focused on religious liberty, rule of law and international standards for protection of the freedom of conscience. She often served as an expert at various venues in other countries with the U.S. Department of State and for the Immigration and Naturalization Service. Members of the commission knew that they could depend on her and her thorough knowledge and vigorous advocacy of this precious freedom of religion. Time and again as I sat in the chair holding hearings on religious freedom, I would turn to Karen, get her advice and her informed expert opinion.
Karen was a great woman, Mr. Speaker. She was smart, she was articulate, she was a quick study, she was tenacious, and she was breathtakingly courageous. She never uttered a word of complaint. While she was suffering, while she was going through her frightening ordeal, knowing full well what that cancer was doing to her body, she would have a quiet smile on her face and a very, very deep faith in Jesus Christ. She spent much time in prayer. She suffered her agonies of cancer with courage, working on behalf of religious freedom of all people: Muslims, Jews, Catholics, Christians, Pentecostals. Believers of every stripe will miss her. Karen possessed within herself an abiding tranquility–the peace that surpasses all understanding that our Lord spoke of in the Gospel. Mr. Speaker, we will greatly miss Karen Lord. She was a dear friend, and I ask all of the Members of the House to keep her in your prayers. Because hers was a life so faithfully lived, she is no doubt looking down from heaven. She was a wonderful person, she will be missed dearly. Our loss is surely Heaven’s gain.