When Americans go to the polls in November, their voting decisions will be based on many different factors: the war in Iraq, the economy, and, perhaps, some recent revelations about former Congressman Foley (R-Fla.).
But theres another issue that should weigh into the decision of voters, especially Christians: religious freedom, at home and abroad.
If what I just said is news to you, youre hardly alone. Religious freedom is something that nearly all Americans, including Christians, take for granted. Unfortunately, many of our brethren around the world know better.
A recent article in Time magazine described the precarious relationship of Chinese Christians to their government. As Time put it, openly religious Chinese, by which Time meant Christians, live under the constant threat of a brutal government response to the practice of their faith.
The situation is even worse in the Islamic world: From Indonesia to Nigeria, the rise of radical Islam has been accompanied by the end of any pretense of tolerance toward Christians.
A few months ago, Chuck told Christian Post readers about Abdul Rahman, the Afghan Christian convert who faced the death penalty for converting. While he was eventually freed, it was only because of U.S. pressure, resulting in the court deciding that he was mentally illhardly a ringing endorsement for religious freedom.
In Iraq, just about the only thing the Sunni, Shiites, and Kurds can agree on is their dislike for the Assyrians, Iraqs indigenous Christian population. As a result, many members of what is arguably the oldest Christian community in the world are leaving their ancient homeland. A similar exodus is underway among Christian Palestinians.
In Egypt, the Copts, while nominally allowed to practice their faith, must overcome legalized harassment almost every step of the way. Sometimes, the harassment turns to murder: Last year, three Copts were killed, and a nun was stabbed in anti-Copt riots.
It isnt only one-party states and Islamic countries that violate religious freedom: Earlier this month (October 4), Hindu extremists kidnapped and tortured a Christian convert. This is part of larger pattern that includes forced re-conversions to Hinduism. Whats even more outrageous is that perpetrators include members of Indias former ruling party, the BJP.
Here in the United States, infringement of religious freedom takes on many forms. Weve told you about the attempt to remove the InnerChange Freedom Initiative® launched by Prison Fellowship from prisons because they are, in effect, too Christian.
Other ministries are experiencing similar difficulties: For instance, InterVarsity Christian Fellowship has been banned from several campuses while other, shall we say, less wholesome groups are fully allowed to operate.
We will tell you more about these difficulties over the next few days. What you need to understand now is that we can no longer take religious freedom for granted, at home or abroad.
We must make the loss of religious freedom an issue in the upcoming elections. Public officials need to be informed and accountable on this issue, not just for our sake but for our brethren around the world. We need to let them know that they are hardly alone in their hour of trial.
From BreakPoint®, October 16, 2006, Copyright 2006, Prison Fellowship Ministries. Reprinted with the permission of Prison Fellowship Ministries. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or distributed without the express written permission of Prison Fellowship Ministries. BreakPoint® and Prison Fellowship Ministries® are registered trademarks of Prison Fellowship Ministries.