Monday, March 27, 2006

Freedom - much talked of, little enjoyed?

We rejoice with Norman Kember and his family that he's free and home. It is great news for him and James Loney and Harmeet singh Sooden. It's important that we don't forget Tom Fox and his family in our celebrations.

Many are puzzled by Norman's actions - the UK press reaction has been bewildering - but as the wonderful Bob Gardiner, his pastor, said at the weekend the gospel makes us all fools in the eyes of the world.

We are also concerned at the plight of Abdul Rahman, facing the death penalty in Afghanistan for converting to Christianity 16 years ago. He is one of hundreds if not thousands of Christians around the world at risk of losing their life simply because of their faith.

It's good to see that the press and governments around the world are up in arms about this. Let's pray that he's released unmolested. Sadly there are too many confirmed stories of converts from that part of the world who have been released by the courts only to be murdered by mobs on the courthouse steps.

Maybe we should expect the world to hate us - Jesus told us it would - and that its hatred in some places will result in death for members of our family. It shouldn't stop us calling for countries who are members of the United Nations to live up to their commitments - in particular the commitment to religious freedom and tolerance.

This commitment means not only that Christians shouldn't be on trial for their faith but that governments should be educating their populations in the principles of tolerance and acceptance of difference. One of the key marks of a free society - as our baptist forbears were the first to say (I think) - is freedom to choose which religion, if any, to follow.

Of course, such tolerance is a matter of grace. And maybe you need the Spirit to live in such a way.

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