Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Freedom of Religion in Pakistan and Elsewhere

For Americans, the idea of religious freedom is barely worthy of mention. Our country was founded by dissidents, convicts (Georgia) and those seeking a change of venue in which to seek their fortune. In many countries, the idea of religious freedom is severely limited by the law of the land. A Christian or Hindu in Pakistan who explains to a neighbour that he does not believe Mohammed to be a prophet actually risks hard time in prison or even death on blasphemy charges. There is a basic realisation among many that we live in a world in which G-d hides and people differ in their search for Him.There is a fundamental distinction between beliefs considered heretical and murder, between heresy and robbery. In our insane world, people are being murdered because they opened the wrong prayer book, stripped of property and freedom for calling G-d by the wrong name.
There is a story in the Talmud about Abraham. He used to entertain guests with lavish meals and opulent hospitality. When thanked by the guests, he would ask them to thank G-d and not him. One elderly guest , when asked to thank G-d, gave effusive thanks to his own idol, refusing to thank G-d. Abraham angrily chased him away. Far from thanking Abraham for defending his honour, G-d reproached him for chasing the man away. "I have suffered his idolatry for over ninety years. " G-d said. "Couldn't you put up with him for a few hours?"
Some people are troubled by poverty, by man's inhumanity to man and disease. We are given a world with these imperfections to correct with our G-d given abilities. Allowing human suffering to continue is an affront to G-d's will. There is a place for the battle of religions. The internet is such a place, as are the broadcast media and the press. We all have G-d given intellects with which to weigh the different perceptions of the Divine will.
The right to seek the A-mighty in one's chosen manner cuts across many religious barriers. There are physical diseases such smallpox that are making a comeback in a world that grew too complacent. Ideological sickness claims as many casualties as do physical maladies. It is time to resume our vigilance and restate our basic support for religious freedom in this suffering world.

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I am presenting the two videos at the top of this posting. One celebrates religious diversity in Pakistan, and ends with a quiet appeal to end the blasphemy laws in that country. The other video talks about the plight of Shia Muslims who are being persecuted and murdered by the Sunni majority in that country. Pakistan is one of many countries facing the struggle for religious freedom. I wanted to portray two different sides of the struggle existing in that country. I will be revisiting this topic b'ezrat HaShem in the future. The videos are from You Tube.

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