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FIRST-PERSON: Let freedom ring!

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP) -- As American Christians celebrate Independence Day, let us not forget that freedom of religious expression in the United States is unparalleled in the world. While Americans of faith often experience discrimination, we rarely, if ever, face outright persecution.

This is not the case in many countries. In fact, there are comparatively few nations where people are free to worship as they choose without fear of societal or governmental persecution, or both.

The Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission helped push for the passage of the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998, which created the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom . The commission, on which I served for 10 years, is an independent entity that advises the federal government on ways in which our foreign policy can promote religious freedom around the world.

Regrettably, religious persecution is getting worse and spreading to other countries, especially in the Islamic world. People are being killed at a horrific pace in places like Nigeria, where the attacks are mainly Muslim on Christian. We see outbreaks of violence in Indonesia, and Turkey is moving from a secular state to what can be described as a religious state, with Islam being the official religion.

Yet Christianity is growing in places that are not friendly to Christ-believers and flourishing despite the persecution in some areas.


As we celebrate our freedom of religious expression and work to maintain it, let us also pause to acknowledge and pray for those around our world who are in peril because of their faith, especially those believers in the Lord Jesus Christ.

And let us make certain that both presidential candidates in this year's election stand up for the basic human values upon which this nation is based and defend Christians and other religious minorities around the world.

Richard Land is president of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission.

Copyright (c) 2012 Southern Baptist Convention, Baptist Press

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