Happy Memorial Day! Today we honor those who have given their lives fighting for our freedom. Freedom isn’t free, and our soldiers pay the ultimate price for it. They fight (and die) to protect our rights as guaranteed by the Constitution.
So what are you grateful for today? Which right do you most appreciate? For me, it’s freedom of religion. This is the right to practice whatever religion one chooses. Our government cannot regulate our religious activity.
Freedom of religion might not seem like a big deal. Why am I so grateful for the right to go to church, read my Bible, or tell others about Jesus? Because most Christians around the world can’t. Many of them suffer and die for doing these very things.
Freedom of Religion?
Many countries claim to offer their citizens freedom of religion. And according to their constitutions, they do. But their governments violate that right by mistreating Christians.
Pakistan’s constitution guarantees freedom of religion. However, this freedom extends only to Muslims. Non-Muslims are treated unfairly on the basis of blasphemy laws that outlaw speaking against Islam and anti-conversion laws that prohibit evangelism.
China’s constitution also promises freedom of religion. Yet religious activity is highly regulated. Churches must register with the government or face serious consequences. Church buildings are demolished, house churches are raided, and Christians are arrested on a regular basis.
North Korea’s constitution claims freedom of religion as well. Yet it persecutes Christians worse than any other country. More than 200,000 Christians have gone missing since 1953. Tens of thousands are currently in prison camps suffering forced labor, torture, and starvation.
India’s constitution provides for freedom of religion too. Yet its newly reelected Prime Minister envisions a purely Hindu nation. During his first term, Christians suffered increased persecution from the Hindu nationalist group Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh.
With over five million members, RSS has informants in almost every village in India. They force Christians to convert to Hinduism and report Christian activity. The church in India is bracing itself for what’s to come during Narendra Modi’s next term.
As If You Yourselves Were Suffering
Paul symbolizes the church as Jesus’ body. He says, “Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ” (1 Corinthians 12:12). We along with our persecuted brothers and sisters comprise the body of Christ.
Paul applies this analogy, “God has put the body together…that its parts should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it” (12:24-26).
He is explicit elsewhere: “Continue to remember those in prison as if you were together with them in prison, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering” (Hebrews 13:3).
It would be a poor expression of gratitude to rejoice in our freedom of religion while ignoring those who cannot. Memorial Day challenges us to advocate for those who do not enjoy the same rights we do.
That’s why Voice of the Martyrs is inaugurating the Day of the Christian Martyr. June 29 is the day when the apostle Paul was beheaded. Now it will also be the day we remember all who have died throughout church history for their Christian witness.
It is fitting that we remember those who have died not for their earthly country, but for the church and gospel of Jesus Christ. Let us add a second Memorial Day to our calendars!
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