- Thursday, April 11, 2024

The War on Faith is occurring before our very eyes.

It takes many forms and will require many different responses, but the first one is awareness.

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A cursory glance of headlines from around the world reveals the battles already underway. Christians killed and kidnapped in NigeriaChurches burned in India, but also in Europe and even the United States. Muslim Uyghurs in concentration camps in ChinaA Muslim Rohynga genocide in Burma. The October 7 radical Hamas attack on Jews in Israel. The Nicaraguan government locking up of Catholic and evangelical leaders. The battle is also nonviolent as we see debanking and censorship of faith affiliated groups in the West.

At the core of all of these headlines and more is the common motivation to remove people of a faith from participating in that nation. It is happening everywhere. In some places it is deadly. In every place, it violates basic human rights.

The most recent Pew Research data on religion, released March 5, found that in 2021 “religious groups faced harassment from governments or social groups and individuals in 190 out of the 198 countries and territories in our study.” In 183 of the countries, the government was involved in the harassment, the highest level since the study began in 2007.

SEE ALSO: Nicaragua jails, fines Protestant pastors over money laundering charge for which no evidence given

The most sophisticated and pervasive government harassment is by China. Undoubtedly the officially atheist Chinese Communist Party sees religion, in all forms, as the biggest domestic threat to their grip on power. They saw how the Catholic Church in Poland was the foundation for opposition to the Communist regime in the late 1980s and want to avoid a similar fate.

You have to ask yourself, why so much animus towards people of faith in so many different places?

It all seems to be rooted in the ancient battle of the Kingdom of Man versus the Kingdom of God, and who has primacy, man or God. Or, put another way, if we are to render unto Caesar what is Ceasar’s and unto God what is God’s, we have a growing property dispute of who is to get what.

More governments want more control and technology has given them the capacity to peer into our lives to see if they are getting it. Cultural norms in many places have moved against religious values and are increasingly hostile and demanding of their own ways and understanding. Fading are the days when we tried to accommodate each other’s deeply held beliefs.

As the place for God shrinks around the world and even becomes a more dangerous place to be, what should be our response?

We must stand our ground and defend our right to our faith.

Freedom to pursue one’s own beliefs or religion is a fundamental human dignity. We have the innate right, given by God, to do with our own soul what we choose. This is the deepest of human rights because it is the one protecting our deepest held beliefs about who we are, why we are here and what is our ultimate purpose and destiny. No government or angry mob has the right to interfere with my or anyone else’s peaceful pursuit of these profound questions.

This right is enshrined in the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, where it declares, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”

In the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted in 1948, it firmly states, “Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion….” Of the 193 member states of the United Nations, all have signed the declaration.

Yet almost all of them violate it and if they are not in an outright battle with people of faith, they are working to limit the reach of faith or quietly suffocate it.

I have spent years fighting for people of faith to have the freedom to practice peacefully what they believe. Often, I have fought for people whose own personal beliefs do not concur with my own, but that is the nature of this cornerstone human right. It’s not about theological agreement. It is about our rights as a human to make this decision without interference from others.

In this column, we will expose the many skirmishes in this war, domestic and abroad. One of our best weapons we have is awareness and we must make sure the public is aware of what is happening.

While most people live in a land where there is significant religious persecution by the government or community, it is also true that 85 percent of the world’s population claim a faith. If people of faith unite for this right, there is no government, community, business or group of people, no matter how powerful, that can put us down.

Welcome to the fight.

Sam Brownback is a former U.S. senator and governor of Kansas. He served as the United States Ambassador at Large for International Religious Freedom from 2018 to 2021 and chairs the National Council for Religious Freedom. He is also a Senior Fellow at Global Christian Relief. 

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