- - Wednesday, November 4, 2015

According to the Pew Research Center, approximately 84 percent of the world’s population identify with and embrace a religious faith. Most of these people of faith share a common trait. They simply desire to live out and express their religious faith and belief system as they see fit without interference from outside forces. Sadly, far too many of these people live in places where the simple act of exercising their religious beliefs is actively discouraged or, worse, dangerous.

Despite what many believe, this is not a one-way street. While many of the recent headlines have highlighted stories of brutal persecution of Christians and Jews by Islamic groups and governments, no religious faith can claim the moral high ground on this issue. As the Bible says, all have sinned.

The result is that we read, all too often, the stories of people who have lost their property, freedom or even their lives for following their beliefs. Over the last few years, my work as a lawyer has increasingly put me in a position of working with people, like Mariam Ibrahim, who lived with and dealt with these issues in a very real way.

Somehow, we, as a society, have to find ways to address this global problem. As usual there is no shortage of opinions on the subject. Most of the opinions involve some version of how everything would be better if only “they” would be more tolerant and reasonable. “We” don’t want to do anything, we want “them” to change. Isn’t that how this problem got started in the first place? Asking or demanding that others change and embrace our viewpoint?

How then do we move forward? To me, the starting place is engagement. We have to act.

First, we need governments to take real action to deal with brutal persecution from groups like ISIS and Boko Haram. At the same time, we need ordinary people to make a decision to act. As Margaret Mead said, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”

Over the last few weeks, I have personally witnessed two extraordinary events that were the result of nothing more than good people choosing to act.
For the fourth year in a row, I was blessed to speak at the anniversary of the founding of Grace Outreach Church of Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. Founded seven years ago, Grace Outreach Riyadh is the only Christian church meeting and worshiping in the open in Saudi Arabia. Every Friday morning, this church holds a worship service for more than 400 Christians from more than 40 countries. When I was there on Friday, Oct. 16th, I spoke to a group of 600 Christians at this remarkable church in Saudi Arabia. While there are hundreds of underground churches in Saudi Arabia, the fact that Grace Outreach Church not only exists but is thriving is a testament to both the brave people who founded this church but also to the government of Saudi Arabia.

Then, a few days after my return from Saudi Arabia, I attended an extraordinary event in Washington, D.C, the “Spreading Peace Convocation.” This event brought together a group of evangelical pastors and Muslim imams to forge relationships and increase understanding.

One of the most inspiring things about the last few weeks has been that these extraordinary events were possible because people decided to act. These people were not experienced experts. They were just people who decided to actually do something and not just talk.

In the weeks and months to come, Faith Under Fire will introduce you to some of these people who have made the decision to go beyond words and act.



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