In the words of John Piper, “Christians are tolerant of other faiths not because there is no absolute truth or because all faiths are equally valuable, but because the one who is Absolute Truth, Jesus Christ, forbids the spread of his truth by the sword. Christian tolerance is the commitment that keeps lovers of competing faiths from killing each other. Christian tolerance is the principle that puts freedom above forced conversion, because it’s rooted in the conviction that forced conversion is no conversion at all. Freedom to preach, to teach, to publish, to assemble for worship—these convictions flow from the essence of the Christian faith. Therefore we protect it for all.”
Freedom of Religion is also something protected in the United States Constitution and specified in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 18 of which states,
“Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.”
Today is International Religious Freedom Day, and today we reaffirm our support for the protection of this right for all people, Christian, Muslim, or other.
We also recognize that it takes more than laws to make the world safe for diversity. Habits of the heart that cultivate civil discourse – such as gentleness and respect (1 Peter 3:15) – also need to be practiced and promoted. In a multicultural and multireligious world, we need to learn the art of persuasion instead of coercion, invitation instead of intimidation, dialogue instead of diatribe.
And these things begin with you and me. They are not only the business of governments but are practices and values cultivated by ordinary citizens. Transformation begins with you and me, so today (and all days), let’s be the peace we wish to see in the world.