The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom recently put out their 2019 annual report, and if you are not already, you ought to be very grateful for the religious liberty that you have. I know that looking at some of these numbers put things in perspective for me.
For example, you will notice if you look at the above report, there are 28 countries labelled with some sort of religious freedom advisory. The commission divided the countries into Tier I, the most severe violators, and Tier II. At first, that may not seem to be such a big deal. 28 countries does not seem like that much, but when you look at the composition of who those countries are, the numbers are little bit more terrifying for people who value religious liberty.
If you add up the populations presented in this report, you will find a total of 4,163,216,759 people who live in one of these 28 countries. According to recent estimates from Worldometers, based on UN data among other sources, our population in July 2019 should be approximately 7,714,576,923.
You may be all ready to say that I am just another evangelical Christian with a persecution complex, but take a look at the report. It does not just detail Christian persecution. It talks about any kind of religious persecution. If you read the section on China, you will read about hundreds of thousands of Muslims being put in internment camps. You will read about the Chinese government banning schoolchildren from attending Tibetan Buddhist religious festivals. You can read about 1000 Protestant Christian church leaders being put in prison for refusing to join the official state churches.
Religious liberty matters. It matters to everyone. You might say that the world would be better off without religion, so we should restrict religious practice. However, religious liberty is a fundamentally human issue, and to deny that freedom is to deny the essence of what it means to be a person.
Each individual has the inalienable right to consider the supernatural and pursue the divine if he or she chooses. That goes beyond just what we believe in the United States. I would contend this is a universal right for all humans everywhere. As a Christian, I do believe that there is one Way to God, salvation through His Son Jesus Christ, and I consequently believe that all other religions are false. That said, I believe, perhaps controversially in 2019, that people have a right to even be wrong. I wish they were not wrong. I wish they would all come to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ, but that is a decision that must be made freely by each individual, and the government should not be in the business of interfering with that pursuit.
It should not be and simply is not the type of thing that can be legislated. It is a matter of conscience.
For approximately half of the people in the world, this right is not a reality. If you haven’t done so lately, take a moment to be grateful if you are lucky enough to live in any country not on this list. Yes, I know that there are potential challenges to religious liberty that come up all the time in the United States, and I am very aware of the potential problems that they can raise, leading us down a path towards these listed countries. That said, we are nowhere near there yet, so let’s take a minute to be grateful for what we have while doing whatever we can to conserve that which is right.