Last week the Canadian Government announced the creation of a new Office for Religious Freedom, an entity devoted to highlighting the rights of those suffering religious persecution internationally. The online reaction to the office has, to put it mildly, been mostly negative. In so doing it highlights a growing Canadian intolerance for the religious and the belief that religion is something best confined inside believers’ homes—that one should not dare to bring it out in the open.
That concern lies behind my recent article for the National Post’s “Holy Post” blog. It’s entitled “Disagree with Christians? That’s fine. But do not silence them.”
Faith, it seems, is now to be understood as a concession made to backwards, backwoods yokels. If you must be religious, then for heaven’s sake do it in the privacy of your own home, where no one else has to see or hear you; religion has no place in the public sphere. Having government step forward to publicly defend religious freedom abroad, therefore, has critics gnashing their teeth.
Even those who have been cautiously optimistic about the office have betrayed a surprising indifference to the plight of persecuted religious minorities. Some pundits have warned against the office spending “too much” attention on Christian issues. To be sure, other groups facing religious persecution — Buddhists, Muslims, Bahai, Sufis, and, yes, atheists — must be just as vigorously defended. But what exactly is so verboten about speaking honestly about the severity of Christian persecution in the world and seeking to redress these wrongs?
I go on to discuss the current level of persecution facing Christians worldwide, before declaring my own faith and explaining that these beliefs “make me who I am” and “inform my decisions and actions in the world.” “Disagree with me?” I pose the question. “That’s fine. But do not silence me. Do not tell me my voice is not allowed in the public forum.” Especially when its raised in support of those who have no voice of their own—those suffering for their faith elsewhere in the world.
Note: There’s an error in the text as it currently stands over at The National Post. It says that Open Doors counts one hundred thousand Christians as suffering persecution. It should read one hundred million.