Culture > Q&A

Religious freedom fighter

"Religious freedom fighter" Continued...

Issue: "Coat of many dollars," May 3, 2014

So you document the violence, but how do you help them to defend their rights? We teach that you have dignity that’s ingrained in you as a human being, and no one can take it away from you. I tell them where the dignity comes from, that God imprinted it on them and created them. If they choose to believe something else, that’s fine, but that’s what we tell them.

As Christians, we know that everyone is created after God’s image, but when you talk to people from other worldviews, on what basis do you make that argument? I talk to them about the universal declaration of human rights, and explain that their government has signed on to agreements stipulating human rights, and we help them understand what their national laws say.

Let’s talk Turkey. What’s going on there? Young people fear it’s becoming too Islamist. Another issue is whether the Kurds will be recognized as a domestic minority in Turkey. Hardwired is opening up a dialogue, and training lawyers and advocates and religious communities to engage in that dialogue. We say you don’t have to become all secular or all Islamist. Religion can flourish in a free society, and here’s how to do it. It’s all a matter of how the state and the people see the role of God and the state in the lives of individuals.

Is there any understanding that religious freedom is the first freedom and underlies other freedoms? I don’t think other countries see it that way at all. In Sudan we worked with some human rights advocates but their training was limited, so when we broke down just what religious freedom is, they recognized how religious freedom intersects with freedom of expression, freedom of the press, freedom of assembly, freedom of political participation, all of these other rights that they hadn’t really thought about.

If a college student reading this thinks, “When I’m in my 30s, I want to fight religious oppression,” what should that person be doing now? You need to qualify yourself to do that. So study— politics, international law, human rights, those arenas— and be able to offer a strong defense of your faith, knowing what you believe and why. On the professional side, do internships and give yourself experience and the exposure to the world. That’s really important.

Marvin Olasky
Marvin Olasky

Marvin is editor in chief of WORLD News Group and the author of more than 20 books, including The Tragedy of American Compassion. Follow Marvin on Twitter @MarvinOlasky.

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