Freedom matters to members of the house church movement, the Falun Gong, the Tibetan Buddhists and Uyghur Muslims in China that are persecuted by the China Communist Party. Freedom matters to Baha’is, Christians, Sunni and Sufi Muslims, and reformers among the Shiite Muslim majority suffering persecution in Iran. Freedom matters to historic Yezidi, Christian and other communities in Iraq and Syria that were subjected to genocidal efforts by ISIL.
Freedom matters to Shia Muslims in Pakistan, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia who suffer discrimination and persecution. Freedom matters to Christians and Jehovah Witnesses marginalized and targeted in Russia. Freedom matters to the hundreds of thousands of Rohingya, a Muslim ethnic minority group, that fled persecution in Myanmar’s Rakhine State. Freedom matters to the Muslim asylum seekers seeking citizenship in India. Freedom matters to all who are oppressed, live in fear and are afraid to speak of their beliefs.
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on 10 December 1948. Article 18 is a standard representing minimum rights against which the enjoyment of the freedom of religion or belief should be measured around the world. It established a platform for articulating and elaborating the provisions on freedom of religion and religious non-discrimination in three documents which together are known as the “International Bill of Rights”. Article 18 reads:
“Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.”
Despite the best efforts of many, freedom of religion or belief is not currently being protected in most counties. More than 80% of the world’s population live in countries with high levels of government restrictions on freedom of religion or belief, or where they face high-level hostility due to their religious affiliations, and this figure is rising. Across the globe there is widespread denial of freedom of worship, and of freedom to teach, promote and publicly express one’s religion or belief.
As millions of Americans prepare to celebrate our freedom on July 4th, most may not be aware of America’s work in defending and mobilizing for oppressed minorities around the world who are victims of harassment, discrimination, physical attacks and/or persecution for their beliefs.
Everyone everywhere has the right to practice their faith, or lack of it, without fear. Freedom matters.