Seeing “Religious” Freedom in India

A few weeks ago, I went on a mission trip to India where I enjoyed the delicious food, the lively quarter tone music, and the erratic yet exciting traffic. However, more importantly, I witnessed a variety of cultures and religions. In terms of religion, India is very different than the United States as Hinduism is the main religion, followed by Islam as the second main religion. The difference in culture was truly evident in the numerous Hindu temples and the occasional Muslim call to prayer that blasted throughout the city.

Now, when I say the word religious I actually don’t mean religious at all in the sense of including all religions, however am specifically talking about Christianity. First off, being a Christian—a follower of Jesus Christ, is not actually a religion but a relationship. It’s important to understand that through a relationship with Jesus is where the freedom comes. The freedom I saw in India was not the freedom to worship openly on the streets or the ability to declare the name of Jesus to anyone in our sphere of influence as we still are able to do so in the United States; however, what I witnessed was the freedom that comes from knowing and experiencing God.

So, with that in mind, the freedom I witnessed in India was a Jesus filled freedom, the freedom Jesus said that people who believe in him would have.

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In a country where it is illegal to share the gospel openly on the street because of “conversion” laws, I saw the beauty of Christians thriving in tough environments and in a society and culture that is against them. I saw thousands of people hungry for the real and astounding power and love of Jesus Christ. I saw lives being renewed and Love entering into the lives of many. Although Christians are the minority in India, I witnessed freedom. I saw a boldness for preaching the Gospel regardless of the cost. Many were free from religious routine, complacency and safety, and instead pursued an intimate relationship with God whole heartedly, while following Him wherever He led, saying whatever the Holy Spirit told them to say.

What I learned in India, is that true freedom is found by having a relationship with Jesus and living boldly for him no matter the cost. The church I helped and ministered at has had numerous threats from many who wished to do the pastors and congregation harm; however as Jesus has promised, He has and will continue to build His church.

In a world that is increasingly getting darker with wars and rumors of wars, moral decline and selfishness and hate seeming to be on the rise, there still is a beautiful and brilliant light that is rapidly growing. We the followers of Jesus Christ are the light of the world, the salt of the earth and through abiding in Jesus are we empowered to share and spread His love to the ends of the Earth.

2 Corinthians 3:17

Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.cross2

Voting Based on the Content of One’s Character

It seems today that many Americans still want change as they did during the race for presidency in 2008. During the time many hopeful citizens eagerly chanted “Change! Change! Change!” while Obama ran for his first presidential campaign. Many however did not know what type or to what extent they would obtain what they had asked for. With Obama’s current approval ratings at 47 percent, an important question to consider is whether the change America has received over the years has been beneficial towards maintaining the country’s status as a superpower. The United States is not in the same state it was in fifteen years ago, and with that in mind, an important question to ask is what does America need? Does the United States need to dramatically change, or would it be beneficial to readopt old practices that made this country successful early on.

Constitution

Currently, despite how things are spun in the media, the United States is not in great shape in foreign affairs or domestically. This is evident in recent news headlines that show that the U.S is no longer as able to police the global arena as it once was. Currently, there has been a weak response against ISIS, while the U.S is also unable to easily persuade China to stop expanding further into the Pacific Ocean. This lack of presence has caused countries and United States citizens to further question America’s legitimate power status as a super power. In addition, many have lost faith in America’s economic stability as there is push to shift the World Reserve currency from the U.S dollar. Both first world countries and developing countries are working to end their reliance on the dollar such as India, China, Russia, Brazil, Iran, Australia, Germany, Chile and the United Arab Emirates. This is not surprising with America’s current national debt over 18 trillion dollars. These numerous examples, however simply make the presidential choice all the more imperative. There are essential characteristics the U.S needs in the next president, such as someone who is willing to cooperate with the other branches of the government, who means and does what they say they will do, and someone who will keep the promises they make to their citizens.

With the country’s dominance as a global power slipping, it is essential that people look at what solutions the up and coming presidential candidates can offer this country, and more importantly, if they are willing to put their money where their mouth is. A major mistake a person can make while voting for president is to strictly vote according to ones’ race or gender. When who becomes president of the United States is chosen more so based on achieving a minority president or a woman president, there is a problem. I hope that I am not misunderstood in what I am saying. I personally would love to have an outstanding woman president or an amazing president of color, however ultimately I want a president who can do their job efficiently and respectfully. The president should be chosen on the content of their character, and not the color of their skin or according to their gender. Many ask the question whether or not the United States is ready for a woman president, to which I say is the wrong question. The question should be, who can get America back to the state of success it was at fifteen years ago.

Under the Radar: Ethnic Cleansing of Christians

There is no doubt World War One and World War Two were one of the darkest times in the history of the World. Both consisted of a mass genocide and ethnic cleansing of the Armenian people in the Middle East during World War One and of the Jewish people during World War Two. As the saying goes, “hind sight is twenty-twenty”, which enables many in the generations after the two world wars condemn the atrocities that have occurred during the early 20th century sadly; however, many are oblivious or apathetic towards the atrocities going on today.

Jews 2

According to the Christian Broadcasting Network (CBN) news, “Every day, thousands of Christians in the Middle East are brutally persecuted by Islamic jihadists demanding they convert to Islam or pay the penalties, “speakers from around the world [have] gathered in Washington, D.C., to discuss the horrors Middle East Christians are facing on a daily basis.” Although these talks are occurring, what is surprising is that there has been very little news coverage about this daily massacre going on when Christian persecution has drastically been on the rise and is the most persecuted group in the world.

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Speakers at the meeting in Washington such as Penny Nance who is the president of Concerned Women for America and others argued that “[people] must not be afraid to refer to those committing these heinous crimes as Islamic jihadist… [and that] we need to identify what’s happening in order to accurately fight it,”

An important question to ask is when will Americans and other countries finally put their foot down and deal with ISIS accordingly? If ISIS is not stopped, than the world faces (if it is not already) repeating the horrific ethnic cleansing that occurred during the two World Wars.

One of the main reasons on why the wide spread persecution of Christians is not being discussed as much as it should be is because of the fear to anger others. According to the New York Post “As a candidate in January 2008, Obama pledged to recognize the [Armenian] genocide… but Obama has never used that description since taking office, mainly out of deference to Turkey, a key US partner and NATO ally, which is fiercely opposed to the “genocide” label”. Just like with the Armenian genocide politics always plays a role in addressingarm a problem or pointing out wrong doings. Is Christian persecution going under the radar or being downplayed because of the fear to offend others? That can very well be the reason.

Mathew 5:10-11

10 Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,
    for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

John 16:1-4

“These things I have spoken to you, that you should not be made to stumble. They will put you out of the synagogues [today it might be from churches]; yes, the time is coming that whoever kills you will think that he offers God service. And these things they will do to you because they have not known the Father nor Me. But these things I have told you, that when the time comes, you may remember that I told you of them.”

Re-segregation: A Step in the Wrong Direction

It is impossible not to notice the racial tensions that are growing within the United States as many Black Americas are enduring hardships and navigating their pent-up anger from the accumulation of racial injustices. Black Americans are justified in being fed up with how this country has handled race relations; however, to gain any substantial progress it is essential for the current generation to act wisely and deliberately as did the Civil Rights leaders of the past.  It is imperative that as Americans we understand that hate will not produce love, and that re-segregation will not get rid of inequalities. Recently I read an article on re-segregation where the basis of the article was simply stating that the author was for re-segregation because it would help specific racial communities flourish if that specific racial group were to simply ban together and exclude other racial groups. I disagree with this perspective for various reasons:

1). If people were to re-segregate, than the lines of communication and understanding would close.

It is sociologically proven that people naturally form prejudices, which are reinforced by a person’s social environment such as school, family, neighborhood, media etc. As a result of individual being shaped by society and close individuals around them, prejudices are naturally taught to them. This can be seen through certain images shown in the media such as the “dangerous Black male thug”, or racist jokes or memes told between friends. Such prejudices have real consequences as we have seen in current news headlines about racial profiling. Since people naturally form prejudices, the only way a prejudice can be refuted is by open dialogue and communication. It is known that in this society many fear Black men and women. If Blacks re-segregate, how will people realize that not all Black men and women are loud, angry, criminals looking for a fight? It is up to Blacks and all people of color to desegregate to therefore show that they are kind, intelligent, hardworking and trustworthy just like other racial groups that have those character traits automatically assigned to them. The only reason why the American Society has come so far in regards to racism is because institutionalized segregation was taken down for the most part. During the times where segregation was the norm, black people had no voice. If Blacks re-segregate, than we risk losing our voice. People learn through communication and new interactions and therefore if we de-segregate as much as possible we can reeducate those who accept the lies fed to them from the media and other social influences.

2). Re-segregation rejects everything that many during the 20th century Civil Rights Era fought for.

People gave their lives to eradicate segregation because they personally knew the negative effects it had on communities of color. If people segregate again, it will make it easier for institutionalized racism to perpetuate itself. Since power in this country is still with the White American majority, the images and ideas that are released into society are still controlled by those in power. This means that people of color will continue to not have equal representation or equal access to resources as the white majority does. Re-segregating would only make it easier for those in power to keep people of color down. The phrase “divide and conquer” comes to mind. If those in power are successful in dividing people of color against each other, than there will be no substantive progress. The Civil Rights Era as well as during the times of slavery had people from many racial backgrounds fight for equality. People of color as well as white Americans gave up their lives for racial equality. During those times of everyone (people of color and whites) banning together against institutionalized racism is when the Civil Rights movements were most productive.MEMORY B 08

3). Practice of “racial love” only helps to perpetuate racism.

I read an article explaining how an Asian man only would conduct business with other Asians, which therefore meant that he was practicing “Asian love”. I strongly disagree with this reasoning. Let’s put things into perspective. If a white store owner said “I only conduct business with white business owners”, he would obviously be looked at as a racist, all people of color need to be careful in not doing the same. Doing business with someone should not be contingent or race in general. People should do business with whomever meets the professional qualifications for the job. Hiring anyone or excluding anyone on the basis of race is discrimination.

By being inclusive, people naturally become exclusive. The solution is not to become more inclusive, however less inclusive to give everyone with the talent a chance to be successful. If we take the logic of “Black love, Mexican love, Asian love etc.” and to “engage business only with our own race” than can we really blame whites for doing so all throughout American History. People have already applied the concept of doing business only with “their own”, which is why there is such inequality in the United States today.

4). Desegregation has never fully been accomplished, which is why to some it may seem that desegregation has not worked.

Contrary to popular belief, segregation still exist in the United States, and is still very evident in a variety of social settings. Like I stated before, I attend Sacramento State, which is arguably one of the most diverse campuses in the United States. With this said, I still observe segregation every day. The segregation that I observe is not forced, however chosen by the people who knowingly or unknowingly engage in self-segregation. An example of what I am talking about is how although a campus may have diverse demographics, many tend to spend time with and engage in activities with members of the same race. In order for desegregation to truly be successful, the American society must first truly desegregate, and by doing so it would truly breed a greater understand and a collective push for equality.

Solutions?

Instead of re-segregating, communities need to unite, and not on the basis of race. The problem does not lie in being desegregated, however it lies in the fact that many have adopted the mindset of looking out only for “me and mine” rather than looking to see how they can help those around them and increase the standard of living for all. It is dangerous to believe that in the United States racial groups should simply stick together. The concept of re-segregation should not be adopted because it puts the solution on turning inwards and banning together. To adequately produce a greater understanding open communication with all racial groups is essential to produce lasting results that work for the good of everyone.

I believe that the authors of the articles I have read are actually trying to address a different problem that is within the Black community. Members of the black community should not pull each other down like crabs in a barrel, but rather up lift and support each other. An example of what I mean can be seen in numerous real world examples such as skin tone and hair texture.

Growing up, I have heard many men exclaim “I only date light-skinned Black girls”. This single phrase works to tear down some black members and elevate others within the Black community, and is therefore problematic because it illustrates a blatant rejection of Black qualities such as dark skin, while reaching towards physical White attributes such as light skin.

I read an interesting book by Beverly Tatum called “Why Are all of the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria?”. In her book she stated how spending time with members of your own race is beneficial, however it ultimately depends on the motives. If a person is exclusively spending time with their own race to simply reject all that is associated with another race, than it is counterproductive. However, if a person decides to spend some time with members of their own race to encourage each other regarding racial struggles, than it is beneficial.

Black Americans should share who they are with those who do not understand them, or with those who only know the Black stereotypes shown to them in the media . Doing so would debunk the fearful and negative stereotypes that people have about the black community and in result breed acceptance and understanding from all racial groups. To sum it up, open communication is key, and communication comes from de-segregation and seeking multiracial interactions.

As racial tensions increase in this country, it is important to not self-segregate, but to show the love of Jesus to everyone. To love your enemies and to forgive as we have been forgiven. There is evil in this world, however the Bible says:

Romans