January 16

Freedom of Religion Day
Reflection

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…”
First Amendment of the US Constitution

Every year January 16 is observed as Freedom of Religion Day.  It is a blatant contradiction of whatever religion we may follow to do violence in the name of being the only possessors of the true way to worship God. Yet, if we reflect on human history, how much hatred, prejudice and war do we see all in the name of the God of love and peace which every religion seeks. We distort the message of our religions and forget that religion is not God but a way to worship God.  We often despise one another and condemn one another in the name of the God who is merciful and loving. As recently as last week, those who attacked the US Capitol carried Jesus banners. Reflecting on this as today’s followers of Christ, let us consider these words:

“Justice is an aspect of compassion. Justice, if you like, is the public face of compassion.  You cannot have religion without justice.  You can’t retreat into private meditation.  You have to be concerned with society. The real question of all religions in the 21st century is not doctrinal. The real question is can we bring healing to our world?  If religions fail to use their own peaceable traditions for others, respect for the stranger, if they cannot make a potent voice in the world, then they will have failed the test of the 21st century..” (Karen Armstrong)

Prayer

Help us, O God, to “beware of false prophets” and worship you in humility and truth.

Action

As a Christian, meditate on the words: ”Love one another as I have loved you” and “ The one who says he loves God and hates his neighbor is a liar.” Take the time to read some of the sacred writings of a religion you may not understand.

Suggested Reading

God is spirit, and God’s worshippers must worship in spirit and in truth.
John 4:24

Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves.
Matthew 7:15

We have an obligation to denounce violations of human dignity and human rights, to expose attempts to justify every form of hatred in the name of religion, and to condemn these attempts as idolatrous caricatures of God.
Pope Francis

Any kind of extreme in any religion is dangerous. It’s just a way to control and violate the basic human rights of others. They diminish God in our world.
Eileen Anglin

Tolerance implies no lack of commitment to one’s own beliefs. Rather it condemns the oppression or persecution of others.
John F. Kennedy

Religion must bring oneness, otherwise it’s not religion.
 Abhijit Naskar

Religious tolerance is something we should all practice; however, there have been more persecution and atrocities committed in the name of religion and religious freedom than anything else.
Walter Koenig

Certainly I’m a Christian first and foremost. But I do believe in religious tolerance and finding the commonality between all of us. I think that’s how we’re all going to come together.
Dennis Quaid

I am tolerant of all creeds. Yet if any sect suffered itself to be used for political objects I would meet it by political opposition. In my view church and state should be separate, not only in form, but fact. Religion and politics should not be mingled.
Millard Fillmore

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