One of the most precious freedoms we enjoy, as citizens of this nation, is the enshrined right to believe what we want and to worship as we see fit. That liberty was so important to our Founding Fathers, they made it the First Amendment to our Constitution. But, not everyone enjoys the same liberty.
The Pew Research Center published a report on which countries still outlaw apostasy and blasphemy and the news is not good.
As the Center looked globally at this issue, the word apostasy was defined as “abandoning one’s faith, including converting to another religion.” They surveyed several countries where there are laws on the books against apostasy and blasphemy and, the report notes, where they are frequently enforced.
In Sudan, 25 men had charged with apostasy by converting to another religion. The men all potentially faced the death penalty. Their crime? Following another form of Islam than the one sanctioned by the government.
In Pakistan, Asia Bibi languished in a prison cell for refusing to convert to Islam. She was charged with blasphemy and was facing the death penalty. When a mocking co-worker tried to get her to convert, Asia said, “Our Christ sacrificed His life on the cross for our sins. ... Our Christ is alive.” Police were trying to get a Christian prosecuted for allegedly sending, what authorities called, a ‘blasphemous poem’ to a friend. If found guilty, the punishment was death.
The Pew Research Center analysis found that over a quarter of the world’s countries had anti-blasphemy laws and more than 1 in 10 (13%) had laws penalizing apostasy, with sentences ranging from fines to death.
Pew also found that blasphemy and apostasy laws were most common in the Middle East and North Africa, where 18 out of 20 (90%) countries in that region criminalize blasphemy and 14 out of 20 criminalize apostasy (70%) What the Pew report failed to mention is that these are predominantly Islamic nations.
While the majority of apostasy and blasphemy laws are found in the Middle East- North Africa region, a small percentage of countries, 7 out of 50, in the Asia-Pacific region also have such laws. The report noted that, for example, in the Maldives, all citizens must be Muslim and those who convert to another faith can lose their citizenship.
This report is both chilling and crucial. It reminds us of the liberty, here in the United States, to believe and worship as we please, free from governmental interference or punishment. It is a cherished right that must be preserved and protected at all costs.
But the report does something else. It serves to remind us of the level of commitment our global Christian brothers and sisters exemplify when they understand that the result of following Jesus just might cost them their lives.
It underscores the powerfully redemptive message of the cross when we see that, despite the potential of a death sentence for some, receiving what Christ has done for each of us outweighs the threats from any government.
Those being persecuted for following Jesus today live out the message of Matthew 10:28. “Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul.” May God protect them from harm as He preserves them for all eternity.
Those are my thoughts. I’m Janet Parshall.
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Janet Parshall has been broadcasting from the nation's capital for over two decades. Her passion is to "equip the saints" through intelligent conversation based on biblical truth. When she is not behind her microphone, Janet is speaking across the country on issues impacting Christians. She has authored several books, including her latest, Buyer Beware: Finding Truth in the Marketplace of Ideas. Parshall and her husband, Craig, live in Virginia, and have four children and six grandchildren.
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