What should American Christians do for religious liberty in the world? 70% of the world’s population does not enjoy the freedom to worship according to conscience as we know religious freedom in this land. I think, in most cases, this fact alone calls for Christians and non-Christians to work together to impact the world in such a way that people will be truly free to worship as they believe, or to not worship at all. What an army we would be, Christian and atheist, if we worked for this common purpose.
Put very simply we ought to strongly encourage the countries of the world to uphold the principles already set forth in Article XVIII of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (adopted by the United Nations in 1948)) as the aspirational goal for all of humankind:
Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.
This incredibly simple, but quite powerful, statement should be promoted vigorously and transparently by us and by our government. We should hope and pray that in the coming century we will see a far clearer adoption and practice of this Universal Declaration. As for religious liberty the 20th century was bleak. Sadly, “freedom of thought, conscience and religion” is not increasing in the modern world. We need to admit that this is true and then prayerfully work to change it if we really care for the oppressed masses, both those who are our brothers and sisters in Christ and those with whom we still wish to share the glorious good news of Christ without resorting to any methods of coercion. If you think Christians have not used coercion think again. Not only have they used it but in some countries they still do. We should decry the violence employed by Muslim countries against those who convert to faith in Christ but we should also decry all Christian oppression in the southern hemisphere as well. While our problem is not as universally obvious as that of Muslims we cannot hide behind a perfect record no matter how we read history or current events.