The latest issue of Liberty, a Seventh-day Adventist magazine, has a cover story titled "A Global Slaughter of Christians." It lists Muslim-Christian sectarian clashes in many nations -- Iraq, Egypt, Pakistan, Syria, Kenya -- that have produced horrible death tolls. Nigeria, Sudan, the Philippines, Azerbaijan, Armenia and other countries could be added to the horror list.
President Obama tackled religious persecution last week at the National Prayer Breakfast. He warned that some regimes -- in China, Iran, Burma, the Central African Republic, etc. -- try to suppress minority faiths, which fans religious hatred and massacres.
Freedom of religion means that government doesn't dictate faith, but lets each group of believers operate freely, with neither government coercion nor support. In America, the president said, "this freedom safeguards religion, allowing us to flourish as one of the most religious countries on Earth." However, he continued:
"It's also clear that around the world, freedom of religion is under threat. ... We see governments engaging in discrimination and violence against the faithful. We sometimes see religion twisted in an attempt to justify hatred and persecution against other people just because of who they are, or how they pray, or who they love. Old tensions are stoked, fueling conflicts along religious lines."
Obama said blasphemy and defamation laws "all too often can be used to suppress religious minorities."
We agree with the president's conclusion:"History shows that nations that uphold the rights of their people, including the freedom of religion, are ultimately more just and more peaceful and more successful. Nations that do not uphold these rights sow the bitter seeds of instability and violence and extremism. So freedom of religion matters to our national security."