Freedom of Religion Threatened
Freedom of religion – marked with ink in our constitution, is our right as a people in the United States. We are free to express our own religious beliefs, whether you are the one holding the “honk if you love Jesus” sign on the street corner or you wear a headscarf as a symbol of honor and purity towards Allah. Or maybe you are a naturalist and not believe in a higher power at all-that is ok because it is your right to be able to express that.
This freedom can be so easily taken for granted. As a student attending a Christian university, I attend chapel three times a week and have the opportunity to worship with fellow students that profess the same faith as me. In the U.S. there is nothing unusual about this, but when taken from a global standpoint, this freedom of conscience has been stripped from certain religious groups.
The Pew Research Center has been studying the trend of religious hostilities worldwide since 2007, and reports that one third of our world today is affected by religious hostility. The sharpest increase of religious hostility is in the Middle East and North Africa. The Huffington Post interviewed Sheerin Jafri, a Shia Muslim in Pakistan, who spoke out about the persecution against Shia Muslims in her country. The majority of Pakistanis profess to be Sunni Muslims, and there have been several sectarian attacks on Shia Muslims, resulting in the deaths of hundreds of people, as well as places of worship being destroyed.
Newsmax reports that religious hostility has risen exponentially, from fourteen countries reported as having heightened levels of religious hostilities in 2011 to twenty countries in 2012. What has led to these outbursts of intolerance, and if we see freedom of conscience as a human right, what is our response?