By Dr. Mary Logan
Did you know January 16 has been proclaimed Religious Freedom Day by US presidents since 1993? January 16 is the anniversary of the Virginia Statute of Religious Freedom that was penned by Thomas Jefferson in 1777 and became law in 1786. The principles set forth in this statute are thought to have been influential to the principles set forth in many of the state constitutions as well as the US Bill of Rights.
On this Religious Freedom Day, let’s not only reflect on the freedoms we have in America but also remember people in our world who live without many of the freedoms we enjoy.
For instance, I am currently reading the book Tortured for Christ by Richard Wurmbrand, a Romanian pastor who spent fourteen years in Communist prisons during the aftermath of World War II. His crime? His belief and public witness of his faith in Jesus Christ. He spent three of the fourteen years in solitary confinement. During his imprisonment, he experienced unspeakable physical torture. Upon his release, he and his wife began the Christian organization The Voice of the Martyrs. The Wurmbrands wanted the families of imprisoned Christians to know they were not forgotten (Wurmbrand 1998, 172).
While writing this blog, I received an e-mail describing letters Assemblies of God General Superintendent George O. Wood recently sent to Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Islamic Republic Leader Ayatollah Sayed Ali Khamenei. In his letters, Wood explained that they were “born out of concern for followers of Jesus who are being detained for reasons that violate the Universal Declaration of Human Rights that Iran has signed.” Wood then personally requested “the release of several Christians currently being held by the Iranian government” (Van Veen 2012).
In observance of Religious Freedom Day, the US State Department’s Office of International Religious Freedom seeks to promote “religious freedom as a core objective of U.S.foreign policy” (U.S. Observes Religious Freedom Day 2011). Meetings are held with foreign officials at various levels to address problems of religious freedom. In her 2010 report, Secretary of State Hilary Clinton commented, “We . . . believe that religious freedom is . . . a fundamental human right. . . . This is not only the American view; it is the view of nations and people around the world [and] is enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights” (US Observes Religious Freedom Day 2011).
As we reflect on religious freedom, let’s remember the Iranian Christians and other believers in similar situations. Wurmbrand (1998) reflected that his “joy was in knowing that [brethren from abroad] had come and that [he was] no longer forgotten” (50). May the persecuted church always be in our prayers! James 5:16 says, “The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.”
Mary Logan, Ed.D., is a Course Development Specialist and Professor of Business and Education at Global University. For more information about Global University, visit http://think.globaluniversity.edu.
U.S.Observes Religious Freedom Day. 2011. US Department of State Official Blog. January 16. http://blogs.state.gov/index.php/site/entry/religious_freedom_day(accessed January 11, 2012).
Van Veen, Dan. 2012. Wood Personally Requests Release of Iranian Pastors, Church Members. AG News 2042 (January 11). http://ag.org/top/News/index_articledetail.cfm?targetBay
_RSSContentID=21228&RSS_OriginatingChannelID=1184&RSS_OriginatingRSSFeedID=3359&RSS_Source= (accessed January 13, 2012).
Wurmbrand, Richard. 1998. Tortured for Christ.Bartlesville,OK: Living Sacrifice Book Company