Social Justice Challenge Month 1: A Look at Religious Freedom

By January 20, 2010 culture, faith No Comments

This post was started January 3. I meant to post it that first week of the new year . . . oops.

Well, there are still 11 days left in month 1 of the Social Justice Challenge (SJC). So let’s make the most of it, shall we?

The goal of the SJC is to read and pursue understanding of the monthly topic, and then to put feet to that newfound knowledge through some sort of action. (Learning is the easy part; it’s the action that’s difficult!)

To kick off month 1 and the topic of Religious Freedom, the SJC hosts posted a few introductory questions for participants to answer. I recommend visiting SJC’s site to review other participant responses—it’s fascinating and helpful to hear how other people view the topic! And I was so encouraged to see that this challenge has attracted people of many faiths and beliefs. We have much to learn from each other.

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SJC: What is the first thing that comes to your mind when you think of religious freedom?

I think of it in terms of its absence, what life is like for people who do not have freedom—I think of oppression, fear, loss, false accusations, coercion, imprisonment, torture, and death.

SJC: Why does religious freedom matter to you?

Spiritual matters are housed in the heart and soul; to have religion managed or forced or limited or coerced in any external way distorts it. To know how someone believes and thinks is the core of who that person is.

For example, my faith in Jesus Christ defines me. To know me is to know the love I have for the God who made me, loves me, and redeemed me. Religious freedom allows me to express freely and openly who I am and then pursue knowing God without oppression, fear, loss, false accusations, coercion, imprisonment, torture, and death.

It matters to me that people around the world experience tremendous loss and fear and suffering because they do not have this same sort of religious freedom.

Such news of oppression and fear and death breaks my heart—when I keep abreast of what is happening. And that is the challenge: Will I open myself to the ache of the oppressed in this world? My prayer is that the SJC will soften my heart to ways I can make a difference in such matters, whether through prayer, writing, giving or serving, so that others have the freedoms we enjoy.

SJC: What knowledge do you have of present threats to religious freedom in our world today?

Some of the editing and proofreading work I do for KMA Direct Communications allows me to learn of present threats to religious freedom throughout the world, although my level of awareness is paltry at best. I also receive e-mail news updates and prayer alerts from Open Doors USA. In the past, my church has participated in the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church, so I have learned about various countries that are known for their harsh religious intolerance.

Ultimately, if I am to know more about these things, I know I must purposely expose myself to it—hence, my commitment to the 2010 SJC.

SJC: Have you chosen a book or resource to read for this month?

I have selected The Book Thief by Markus Zasak, primarily because it came recommended by my nieces.

Of all the books on SJC’s reading list, I’ve read just two: Silence (Shusaku Endo) and The Scarlet Letter (Nathaniel Hawthorne). Two other books I’ve read that seem to fit the topic are God’s Smuggler by Brother Lawrence (founder of Open Doors) and Jesus Freaks by dc Talk and The Voice of the Martyrs. An inspiring documentary that fits for this month (as well as for the June’s topic of genocide) is the first in the Nomad Show series, which features Sara Groves.

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Join the SJC! Let’s read, act, and change together in 2010. Visit SJC HQ for details.

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