President Bush, during his last State of the Union Address, honored Bangladeshi-born Hassan Askari who, in a selfless act, jumped to the aid of four Jewish commuters when a group of thugs allegedly responded to their Jewish season's greeting by attacking them. This Brooklyn Muslim took a stand for America’s freedom of religion; we should all be willing to do the same.
As we come together to pray this year, may we also say a prayer for those believers in the world who are not free to exercise their faith. In Afghanistan, when a Muslim believer converted to Christianity, he was threatened with death. Only the intervention of Secretary of State Rice allowed him to leave the country.
Unfortunately, the freedom of religion we enjoy is not embraced around the world. The Voice of the Martyrs, a group committed to the support of persecuted Christians around the world, identifies the nations where government policy or practice prevents Christians from obtaining Bibles and other Christian literature. Some have anti-Christian laws that lead to Christians being harassed, imprisoned, killed or deprived of possessions or liberties because of their witness.
The list of restricted nations includes such Islamic countries as Morocco, Algeria, Libya, Egypt, Sudan, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Iran, Pakistan…and Iraq. In such countries, Christians pray and witness to their faith at their own risk.
Christians believe that Jesus came not to change Rome but to call individuals to faith—changing believers from within one person at a time. Sadly, it seems that when Muslims are in the majority, the goal of Islam is to establish a caliphate under Sariah Law. In a country under Sariah Law, people of other faiths would be infidels and subject to added taxation and controls.
Thankfully, the LibForAll Foundation (wwwllibforall.org), a Muslim group based in Winston-Salem, NC, is working to reduce and discredit the use of terror from within the Muslim faith and to ensure the global triumph of a pluralistic and tolerant understanding of Islam. They are creating a global network of Muslim opinion leaders in the fields of religion, education, pop culture, government, business and media, who will join in proclaiming that "the emperor has no clothes"—that radical Islam has no theological validity—and thereby mobilize the "great silent majority" of Muslims to reject the extremists' ideology of hatred and violence. Would that CAIR would take a similar stand.
On our National Day of Pray it is important to unite all faiths in being thankful for the religious freedom we have and to exercise that faith in support of our troops. But one day is not enough.
In the midst of the Normandy invasion, Franklin Delano Roosevelt asked Americans to join with him in prayer. Instead of urging a single day of prayer, FDR prayed, “Because the road is long and the desire is great. As we rise each new day, and again when each day is spent, let words of prayer be on our lips, invoking Thy help to our efforts.”
In that same spirit of perseverance and unity, let us also pray and work together every day to extend religious freedom to others around the world.