Religious Persecution: First Freedom Remains Under Global Siege

Religious Persecution: First Freedom Remains Under Global Siege

Americans take religious liberty for granted. But four of five people around the world lack the freedom to worship and live faithfully. The Pew Research Center, with Peter Henne as lead researcher, recently issued its latest study on religious liberty. The report makes for a sad read. In some nations governments suppress the faithful. In other countries people make their societies unfriendly to minority beliefs, imposing a wide range of less formal sanctions, including murder. The overall global environment to religious faith is hostile. Concluded the study:  “restrictions on religion were high or very high in 39 percent of countries. Because some of these countries (like China and India) are very populous, about 5.5 billion people (77 percent of the world’s population) were living in countries with a high or very high overall level of restrictions on religion in 2013, up from 76 percent in 2012 and 68 percent as of 2007.” Christians and Muslims, who make up the largest share of the world’s population, are the most widely harassed faiths (in 102 and 99 countries, respectively)—in both cases, ironically, far more grievously in Muslim than Christian nations. But particularly worrisome has been the increase in anti-Semitism. Noted Pew: “there has been a marked increase in the number of countries where Jews were harassed,” to 77, a recent peak. The problem is more social than government, and is evident in 34 of 45 European nations. In 2013 18 nations were found to have “very high” levels of government restrictions. A Baker’s Dozen of the chief miscreants were Muslim states: Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Brunei, Egypt, Indonesia, Iran, Malaysia, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Syria,...
China Should Respect Religious Liberty

China Should Respect Religious Liberty

Christianity is thriving in China. There may be more religious believers than Communist Party members. Beijing’s sensitivities to religion are well-known.  Religion offers a competitive worldview to the Party.  The latter fears many Christians, especially Catholics, have loyalties beyond China’s borders.  Religion brings people together in ways that might eventually influence politics. In its early days, the People’s Republic of China responded harshly to religious activity, but official policy has moderated over time.  There is an increasing amount of reluctant toleration of religious belief. Beijing appears to have a more relaxed policy.  Last year, I visited a church of around 800 in the capital.  It operated openly, attracted many young people, and hosted dozens of baptisms on the Sunday I attended.  I saw a car in traffic that sported the traditional Christian “fish.” Ironically, the lesson of the West’s experience with religion is that the best way for a government to avoid conflict between religious believers and political authorities is to provide the greatest freedom possible.  Obviously, there have been many strains of Christianity throughout the centuries.  However, the faith emphasizes a transcendent commitment to God while accommodating many different political perspectives. The Apostle Paul, whose ministry benefited from the order imposed by the Roman Empire, urged submission to the ruling authorities.  There were exceptions, however, most obviously when secular rulers sought to impede the exercise of faith. For instance, when the Jewish leadership in the Sanhedrin instructed the Apostles Peter and John to no longer preach about Jesus’s death and resurrection, they responded that they had to obey God rather than men.  The original disciples and their followers...
Chinese Anomalies: How the World’s Largest Country Is Really Different from America

Chinese Anomalies: How the World’s Largest Country Is Really Different from America

SHENYANG, CHINA—For the longest time I viewed twitter as, well, a silly waste of time, and refused to use it.  I still view it as a silly waste of time in any normal world.  But I finally gave in after friends and colleagues told me that it would be a very useful tool.  I’m still not convinced, but I have to admit that I’m pleased to see the rise in the number of people following me (@Doug_Bandow) over time. When I travel somewhere I normally go onto Google, check the news, and comment on current stories.  After arriving in the People’s Republic of China (PRC) I logged in and plugged in Google.  Which wouldn’t come up.  So tried it again.  And nothing. Then the light went on.  Of course.  The Beijing authorities set up a Chinese version since they didn’t want their people to be able to access articles on forbidden topics.  Of course, I thought, I could still make comments on Twitter about my visit.  But when I tried to load Twitter and the same thing happened.  Another bulb lit up.  Of course:  the PRC has set up its own system (Weibo) because people say bad things about China—its policies and leaders—on Twitter.  So that service can’t be allowed. It really makes one appreciate living in a free society. But perhaps the most stunning aspect of China, which it takes a while to recognize, is the dearth of children and almost complete absence of siblings.  There are a lot of people here.  If you don’t like crowds, forget visiting Chinese cities. However, for years the PRC has enforced,...
Goliath

Goliath

Grassroot Note: The Grassroot Institute of Hawaii is fortunate to have many thoughtful and experienced members who we invite to contribute their own insights into the issues that affect our islands. As part of a series of articles meant to highlight those unique voices, we are happy to bring you this parable about freedom and democracy from Peter Martin. A true entrepreneur, Grassroot Institute member Peter Martin founded the West Maui Land Company with his partner Jim Riley, eventually turning it into one of the most successful and influential land development companies in Maui. He draws on that experience to explore the question of where the use of force on the part of government (and all acts of government that compel citizens to take a certain action or face penalties are, in truth, acts of force) begins to erode the real meaning of liberty. By Peter Martin Imagine we are on an island, with only five people; Juanita, Paul, Kimo, Jackson, and Goliath.  Let’s suppose one day that Juanita, Paul, Kimo, and Jackson relax and play with the children while Goliath goes and finds a deer and some fish for himself.   That evening, the others are hungry, so they decide to form a democracy and take a vote.  The vote is 4 to 1 to make Goliath share his venison and fish.  He refuses and they take some of his food by force (they call it taxation).  This is a relatively clear example of a democratic process resulting in “unfair” force against an individual, and is clearly not what the forefather’s envisioned. Now, let’s make a slight change...
In an Ideal America

In an Ideal America

By Mark Monoscalco Every person should be free… to pursue his ambition to the full extent of his abilities, regardless of race or creed or family background. to associate with whom he pleases for any reason he pleases, even if someone else thinks it’s a stupid reason. to worship God in his own way, even if it isn’t “orthodox.” to choose his own trade and to apply for any job he wants — and to quit his job if he doesn’t like it or if he gets a better offer. to go into business for himself, be his own boss, and set his own hours of work — even if it’s only three hours a week. to use his honestly acquired property or savings in his own way — spend it foolishly, invest it wisely, or even give it away. to offer his services or products for sale on his own terms, even if he loses money on the deal. to buy or not to buy any service or product offered for sale, even if the refusal displeases the seller. to disagree with any other person, even when the majority is on the side of the other person. to study and learn whatever strikes his fancy, as long as it seems to him worth the cost and effort of studying and learning it. to do as he pleases in general, as long as he doesn’t infringe the equal right and opportunity of every other person to do as he pleases. The above, in a nutshell, is the way of life that the libertarian philosophy commends. It is the way of...