January 17

Freedom of Religion Day

Reflection

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
First Amendment to the Constitution

Yesterday, January 16, was National Freedom of Religion Day.  It is a contradiction of whatever religion we may follow to speak or act violently 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 in the name of the God of love and peace whom 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. Sadly, it is happening right now.

Prayer

 Help us, O God, to live in humility compassion, and truth.

Action

 As a Christian, I will 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.” I will take the time to read some of the sacred writings of a religion I may not understand.

Suggested Reading

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

The Jewish leaders insisted, “We have a law, and according to that law he must die, because he claimed to be the Son of God.”
John 19:7

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

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  

I believe in an America that is officially neither Catholic, Protestant nor Jewish – where no public official either requests or accepts instructions on public policy from the Pope, the National Council of Churches or any other ecclesiastical source — no religious body seeks to impose its will directly or indirectly upon the general populace or the public acts of its officials — and where religious liberty is so indivisible that an act against one church is treated as an act against all.
John F. Kennedy

I never will, by any word or act, bow to the shrine of intolerance, or admit a right of inquiry into the religious opinions of others.
Thomas Jefferson 

We have convinced over one billion members of the Islamic faith that we are prejudiced against their religion, that we would deny them freedom of religion, that we want suppress their culture and invade their governments.
Theodore C. Sorensen

The United States should have a foundation free from the influence of clergy.
George Washington

All of us think that our religion is ‘good’ and that those in apparent (and often politically motivated) opposition to it are ‘bad.’ But the real truth is that all of our religions are equally guilty of being used to promote violence, and — thanks to centuries of political manipulation that have distorted the way we read our holy books — all of us are equally guilty of not following what our religions really say.
David Liepert

 Racial prejudice, anti-Semitism, or hatred of anyone with different beliefs has no place in the human mind or heart.
Billy Graham

We must confront persecution faced by many Christian communities and the intolerance that plagues us. We must overcome anti-Semitism and the prejudice that divides us. We must defeat Islamophobia and the fears that weaken us.
Ban Ki-moon

Let me say this loud and clear. There is a world of difference between terrorist acts and the Islamic Shari’a. Islam is not only a religion, but a way of life. And at its heart lie the sacred principles of tolerance and dialogue.
King Hussein I

 Ever since the Crusades, when Christians from western Europe were fighting holy wars against Muslims in the near east, western people have often perceived Islam as a violent and intolerant faith – even though when this prejudice took root Islam had a better record of tolerance than Christianity.
Karen Armstrong

 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

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