On this day in history, November 17, 1558, the Elizabethan Age began. Queen Elizabeth became the Queen of England at the death of her half sister, Mary. Elizabeth had been imprisoned during Mary’s reign during a Protestant Rebellion, staged because of Mary’s pro-Catholic legislation. (History.com).
What’s interesting about Queen Elizabeth is that, though she was Protestant and she restored Protestantism during her reign, she firmly felt that people should be permitted to practice Catholicism so long as it did not threaten the crown or peace. There were many unsuccessful Catholic plots against her, in spite of her tolerance for limited freedom to practice the religion of one’s choice. During a time when monarchs chose the preferred religion, and said religion was taught in schools, Queen Elizabeth’s tolerance for some freedom for religious practice seems remarkable. (http://www.elizabethan-era.org.uk/religion-elizabethan-england.htm).
Flash forward many hundreds of years……Although the Universal Declaration of Human Rights protects freedom of religion, nearly half of all countries punish citizens for some forms of defamation of religion. Atheists can be put to death for lack of belief in 13 different countries. The U.S. lists 8 countries that severely limit religious freedoms within their borders: Burma, China, Eritrea, Iran, North Korea, Saudia Arabia, Sudan, and Uzbekistan. (Index on Censorship).
What’s interesting about the list above is that the United States has a continued diplomatic relationship with several countries listed. (Saudi Arabia is one of our allies.) Clearly, we aren’t speaking loudly enough to our elected officials about human rights violations worldwide and we should be.
Some organizations we can support, in addition to vocalizing our concerns to Congress, that work on human rights violations (which include religious persecution) include:
- ACLU: They work to protect rights of Christians and minority faiths, and the right to practice no religion at all. https://www.aclu.org/issues/religious-liberty/free-exercise-religion.
- Amnesty International: They work to fight human rights abuses worldwide, and they do an excellent job of fighting for religious liberty. https://www.amnesty.org.uk
I am a current supporter of the ACLU and Amnesty International and I am very familiar with their work. Unfortunately, my research did not unearth additional organizations that I felt were worthy of mentioning for their work for religious liberty. I found a few, but they seem to be working only on the rights of Christians – which isn’t religious liberty for all, but only for some. If you have additional organizations that you support and can recommend I’d love to hear from you.
1 Peter 2:16 (NRSV): 16 As servants[a] of God, live as free people, yet do not use your freedom as a pretext for evil.
It is always a good time to speak out for religious liberty for all.
Serve all with love.
Photo courtesy of: stocksnap.io