March 29. Freedom of religion. Julius shared on the right toFreedom of religion which has been a source of oppression from very early times until today, as people have been forced to pay homage, worship gods other than their own and convert to other faiths. Many have been and continue to be martyred for remaining true to their own beliefs. In our own day freedom of religion is a human right enshrined in the UN Charter and many national constitutions, yet more people, Christians and those belonging to other faiths, are persecuted for their beliefs than ever before.
While the Israelites were in exile in Babylon King Nebuchadnezzar punished three of their young men who refused to deny their own God and worship his gods, by having them thrown in a blazing furnace. They replied to him:
Scripture: O king, we have no need to answer you in this matter. Our God, whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace and he will deliver us out of your hands. When they were saved the king also gave praise to their God.
Pope Francis: A journey of peace is possible between religions. Its point of departure must be God’s way of seeing things. It follows that we believers need to find occasions to speak with one another and to act together for the common good and the promotion of the poor. FT 281-2. In his ongoing contact with the Grand Imam Ahmad Al-Tayyeb Pope Francis follows the famous example of St Francis who made the dangerous journey to Damietta in Egypt to meet with Sultan Malik-el-Kamil at the time of the Crusades. That journey demonstrated the breadth and grandeur of Francis’ love which sought to embrace everyone. He did not wage a war of words at imposing doctrines, he simply spread the love of God. His attitude, instilled in his brothers, was that without renouncing their own identity they were not to engage in arguments or disputes but to be subject to every human creature for God’s sake. FT 3-4
Reflect, share, act, pray. Do we make enough efforts to reach out to people from other religions to build the bridge of dialogue? Organize a shared moment of prayer with people of other faiths.