We live in a country that guarantees religious freedom, and, in spite of our periodic squabbles about what it covers, the United States is serious about it. We can pray and worship as we see fit. Moreover, Christianity is still the dominant religion here, even if the numbers are now declining sharply. And if anything, we U.S. Christians are accustomed to some level of deference in the public sphere. Consequently, it is sometimes easy to forget that Christianity is not respected everywhere.
So I'm sure that most NCR readers, like myself, were horrified at the news from Lahore, Pakistan, on Easter Sunday. A suicide bomber, part of a sect of the Taliban, set off explosives killing himself and at least 70 others in a public park. Although many of the victims were Muslim, the intended targets were Christians, and most were women and children who had come to the park to celebrate Easter. But whoever the intended, or actual, victims, this incident was horrific.
This incident is just part of the religious hatred that is infecting too much of our globe. Recently, on Interfaith Voices, I interviewed the president of Genocide Watch, Dr. Gregory Stanton, about the statement of Secretary of State John Kerry declaring that three religious groups in the Middle East were targeted for genocide by ISIS: Yazidis, Christians and Shia Muslims. Yes, genocide: the intended murder of entire peoples.
Last week, I interviewed Raza Rumi, a Pakistani journalist and scholar on the religious situation in his home country, where 1-2% of the population is Christian. It is infected quite clearly by the ideology of the Taliban who have no tolerance for Christians or Hindus, Shia Muslims, or the tiny minority of Amadiyya Muslims.
There is something we can learn from this. Most intolerance begins with scurrilous language -- calling names, telling untruths about another group, urging that a group be shunned or vilified. But it does not end there unless we stop it there. It can too often lead to physical violence by the religiously righteous. Welcome to Pakistan, and Syria and Iraq, etc.
In this country, the scurrilous language and ideology seems directly mostly at Muslims -- and we have to stop it in its tracks.
I don't know about you, but I long ago made a resolution that I would never let a discriminatory remark made in front of me go answered … whether that be a racist remark, a slam at someone's nationality, a negative statement about LGBT people, or a statement expressing religious prejudice or gender bias. In a world like ours, this is the least we can do.