And they departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for his name.
This is an excerpt from the book of Acts in the Bible. The disciples rejoiced when they were persecuted so there is a temptation for one to feel conflicted when the inevitable feeling of anger erupts at the state at which Faith groups are being maltreated.
The most recent public experience of Christian persecution in the west, although it can be argued that indeed many have suffered more, is that of the Irish couple who lost their appeal in the high court in October because they refused to bake a cake with that the inscription which stated that the Christian couple support Same-sex Marriage.
Is it comforting, to a degree, to see many, especially atheists defend the couple’s rights to deny the service request to bake a cake with the inscription “we support Gay marriage”. It is ironic to call someone intolerant and then prosecute them for disagreeing with you. Essentially, it’s ‘I’m a peaceful and gentle person until you disagree with me then I’ll fight you until you end up with debt of over £300.000’. This is exactly what has happened to the Christian couple at hand. The so-called tolerant people in favour of the couples’ prosecution have may have not considered, or do not care, about the repercussions of this debt (among other consequences) on the Christian couples’ family.
It is of course, interesting to know if this ‘bake us a cake or else’ plan can be executed to a Halal bakery or a Kosher bakery. We shouldn’t automatically ascribe certain behaviours over any group of people as this leads to dangerous assumptions which mar the identity of said group. However, based on the actions (mostly violent) by certain religious groups when they are insulted or forced to go against the conscience of their belief, I doubt other faith groups will be approached to bake a ‘gay-cake’.
Persecution is certainly not disagreement. Most logical thinking people will not define peace as an experience of complete agreement with each other but more so as an experience of respecting the humane choices of others even those we disagree with.
A defence of freedom of expression and of faith, as the two go hand in hand is not a denial of ill actions conducted in the name of a faith. However, In discussions about faith it is important to separate the ill actions of the individual who betray the rules of their religious books and that of the founder of their faith. In other words if someone goes about claiming that due to Christianity he has to go about poisoning others who disagree with him. In such those who know little or nothing about Christianity will hopefully examine the claims before deciding if the person was a fanatic (exercising the rules of his faith in the strict and literal sense) or a mad man who is misinterpreting a religious text or looking for an excuse to be unlawful.
Human Beings are incredibly complex and it is both a beauty and a challenge. A lot of patience is required on both sides if we are to live cohesively.
Of course, not all aspects of each faith should be tolerated. Sharia Law should not be exercised. It was recently announced that some Prosecutors currently fear tackling honour-crimes as some might view it as prejudice. However, we have laws against crimes such as murder in this country and that should counteract religious beliefs. Calling it honourable doesn’t excuse the reality that life has been unlawfully taken.
Christians are not the only people of faith who experience persecution. Muslims face and have experienced increased persecution due to being blamed for the actions of others who commit atrocities in the name of Islam. In the west, Trump’s anti-Islam rhetoric has no doubt contributed to the hatred of Muslims. Muslims in their own countries will also face persecution if they choose to exercise a liberal interpretation of their faith
Of course, we see severe persecution in countries like Iraq and Syria, where people of nay faith are being kidnapped by ISIS. Also, in Nigeria, churches are burnt regularly, among many atrocities, by Boko Harram. The media coverage is rather mediocre. It could be argued it is not trendy to defend the cause of Christians but that is for another time.
There is also the reality of persecution within faiths. Some Muslims who convert to other religions are tortured by their former fellow Muslims for choosing their own faith and in most cases fate, because the price they pay to exercise a chosen faith is higher than most people who live anesthetised western lives can imagine.
Change is on the horizon as the brave fight and the seeds of their courage is being rewarded. Many Christians (Yazidis and others) as well as Muslims have been freed from the demon that is ISIS. Some in Mosul are currently seeking refuge in Basra.
Major demographic changes bring with them a change in Ideology and result in policies that determine the freedom or confines in which its inhabitants will enjoy or endure. As those who are freed from Isis take off the Niqab they were forced to wear and shave the beards to declare the start of a new life, many more lie in prisons and until we see the humanity beyond our disagreement with Religion, there will always be barriers in tackling the persecution of faith groups. Religious theocracy as a political power is not the answer for this age, but neither is militant atheism or a passive approach to a religious dictatorship.