Society & Politics

Martyrdom With a Message

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Timothy Shah

While we may recognise the importance of religious freedom, its origins are often neglected. In this paper presented at Seed of the Church Conference, Timothy Shah looks at how martyrdom, particularly in the early days of the church, formed a basis for the call for religious freedom. In response to persecution, Christians insisted upon—and witnessed to—the “individual right of religious freedom for all people” rather than responding with violence or working towards the overthrow of government. Shah writes, “persecuted Christians could bear witness to freedom because they already knew they were free.” As such, the persecution of Christian minorities today has political implications—implications recognised even by governments that wish to discourage religious freedom, Shah argues.

These implications call us to consider the way we respond to political structures. Furthermore, they challenge us to consider the ways in which we as Christians experience religious freedom with respect to those of other faiths and religious beliefs.

Where do we need to work towards greater religious freedom?

Why do we fear the loss of religious freedom?

Source: The Berkley Center for Religion, Peace and World Affairs

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