Thoughts for Today, Dec. 19, 2016

  1. With Christmas just six days away, I found myself thinking of Christians worldwide who courageously hold onto their faith – indeed, live it and share it – in the face of brutal persecution.  Because they believe Jesus Christ, the Babe of Bethlehem, is the Son of God, they are willing to risk everything. They stake everything, even their lives, on the promise that “whoever believes in him may have eternal life.” (John 3:15).
    Do we believe like that? Will we risk everything, if it comes to that, for the same promise? From the safety of our warm living rooms and Christmas-decorated homes, perhaps we can take as our own the sufferings of our persecuted Christian brothers and sisters, assisting them with prayers, donations, and public support. For a personal reflection on this point, read “A Coptic Christian Speaks Out After the Attack,” by Sarah Shanoudy, a member of the CWF staff.
  2. The Vatican recently expressed heightened concern over the global deterioration of religious freedom. Msgr. Janusz Urbanczyk, Permanent Representative of the Holy See to OSCE (the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe), pointed not only to the increasing “manifestations of intolerance, hate crimes and episodes of violence or vandalism against religious places or objects,” but also to society’s unwillingness to challenge the media and influential voices in society who continue “offending, insulting or attacking Christians because of their beliefs and their values.”  Read more on our Vatican page.
  3. Here at home, the U.S., Congress recently passed bipartisan legislation supporting international religious freedom and sent it to President Obama, where it awaits his signature. The bill, the Frank R. Wolf International Religious Freedom Act, gives the State Department and the administration a variety of tools and resources to protect persecuted religious minorities and to counter  violent extremism. N.J. Rep. Chris Smith, one of the bill’s sponsors and the Chair of the Global Human Rights Subcommittee in the House, issued a statement explaining the urgency of the bill:
    “From China and Vietnam to Syria and Nigeria, we are witnessing a tragic, global crisis in religious persecution, violence and terrorism, with dire consequences for religious believers and for U.S. national security…Ancient Christian communities in Iraq and Syria are on the verge of extinction and other religious minorities in the Middle East face a constant assault from the so-called Islamic State of Iraq and Syria. The freedom to practice a religion without persecution is a precious right for everyone, of whatever race, sex, or location on earth. This human right is enshrined in our own founding documents, in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and has been a bedrock principle of open and democratic societies for centuries.”
  4. Yes, religion is a human right and essential for human flourishing. But did you know that it is also good for society—even economically?  Faith Counts released a report last month showing that religion contributes a staggering $1.2 trillion to our society and economy.  As the number of “nones” continues to rise, don’t let anyone tell you that religion is merely a private matter, offering nothing of value to the larger world.  We know that’s not true –all we have to do is look around to see the impact of faith: the real people whose lives are changed, needs are met, and dignity upheld.  But it doesn’t hurt to point out that religion—and the work of religious institutions and religiously motivated people—has a tremendous economic benefit as well.

Peace to all, in these final days of Advent!