Lifelong Learning – Happy New Year?

“I wish you a happy New Year!” We sometimes use these words without thinking—they’ve become a formulaic greeting; a cliché we use at the beginning of each year.

But what do these words really mean for someone who promotes and defends religious freedom? What will 2012 bring for the families of those killed in Northern Nigeria as bombs ripped through churches where Christmas services were in progress? Or for the young lady in Pakistan who was raped, and then given the choice between marrying her attacker or being stoned for adultery?

What would be an appropriate New Year’s wish for the many millions of people around the world today who experience discrimination, persecution, or even execution, just because of their religious convictions?

I was deeply moved by the story of an elderly woman in Orissa, India, who bravely confronted a group of religious fanatics. They saw her as an apostate and believed themselves to be defenders of the “true faith.” They gave her a choice: “Give up your religion or die.” The woman chose a violent death rather than to betray her conscience.

Did she make the right choice? No magazine or newspaper has published the story of her courage; her face has never appeared on cable news. Soon, the memory of her heroism will fade.

When we realize that this woman’s story is just one of countless others—many of which will never be known or told—we may be tempted to ask, “Is the struggle and the pain worthwhile? Wouldn’t it be wiser for these men and women to surrender; to give in to the will of the majority? Wouldn’t it be better for them to just accept the reality of intolerance and fanaticism? To put aside their quest for freedom and to aim simply for survival?”

Yet ordinary people around the world continue to choose the path of faithfulness, no matter what the cost.

Is choosing to die for your faith an act of read more


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