January was all about Religious Freedom on the Social Justice Challenge. It was an interesting journey for me and I learned quite a bit about this topic. I chose to participate on the ACTIVIST level which meant I read a full length book (read my review of Sacred Hearts), explored other media (see below), and performed an action step.
Many people read and reviewed books related to religious freedom – I perused those reviews and added a couple of books to my TBR pile. You can see the full list with links here.
I also visited several websites, including:
- Voice of the Martyrs (an interdenominational Christian organization dedicated to assisting the persecuted church worldwide)
- Amnesty International (a worldwide movement of people who campaign for internationally recognized human rights for all – this does not just include religious freedom)
- Forum 18 (a Norway based news organization which believes that religious freedom is a fundamental human right, which is essential for the dignity of humanity and for true freedom)
I spent quite a bit of time considering what kind of action step I wanted to take. I found myself returning again and again to this page on Voice of the Martyrs. For some reason I was drawn to Asia Bibi, a 37-year-old Pakistani woman from the village of Ittanwali, who was arrested by police on Friday, June 19th after sharing her faith with other women in her village. Asia is Christian, but the Muslim leaders in her village claim her declaration of faith is blasphemy.
I wrote a letter to Asia – it was quite short because there are only a small number of phrases which the site will translate…but I found its brevity powerful. Essentially, I told her I would keep her in my prayers, and was also praying that those who were persecuting her would open their hearts.
I cannot imagine being imprisoned for my religious beliefs…and yet this is not an uncommon occurrence in Pakistan which was recently named by the independent U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom as one of 13 countries where religious freedom is most violated. This was a quote from that article:
On Pakistan, [Commission head Felice] Gaer said while government leaders “acquiesced” to the rule of Taliban-associated extremists in some regions, members of civil society, particularly women, have courageously objected.
Commission member Elizabeth Prodromou says the situation in Pakistan, a CPC country since 2002, has worsened because of the “largely unchecked growth” of Taliban-associated extremist groups:
“Pakistan’s central government in Islamabad has ceded effective control of more and more of the country to these Taliban-associated extremist groups, notably of course, in the Swat Valley and its neighboring districts. At the same time, sectarian and religiously motivated violence continues apace. Particularly acute are violations against Shia Muslims, Amhadis, Christians, Hindus and Sikhs,” she said.
Other countries named in the Commission report include: Burma, North Korea, China, Vietnam, Eritrea, Nigeria, Sudan, Iran, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan.
Thanks to the Social Justice Challenge, I learned a bit more about the threats to religious freedom in the world in January.