Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Definition of Religious Persecution

I have been closely involved in discussions surrounding the establishment of the World Evangelical Alliance’s (WEA’s) International Institute for Religious Freedom (IIRF). At the same time, an academic publisher hired me to proofread a text: Re-Examining Religious Persecution. Here is the author’s definition: “Religious persecution should be understood as an unjust action of varying levels of hostility directed at a believer or believers of a particular religion or belief-system through systematic oppression or genocide, or through harassment or discrimination which may not necessarily limit these believers’ ability to practice their faith, resulting in varying levels of harm as it is considered from the victim’s perspective, each action having religion as its primary motivator” (Tieszen C 2008:42). I’m not sure, though, about religion as the primary motivator. Is this doing justice to what happens “on the ground”? Some examples (both of these actual): a pastor reveals corruption discovered through counselling, and is framed; or a Church dismisses an employee for unchristian practices, and is summoned. I might try a definition like this: “Religious persecution is suffering at the hands of others for religiously grounded practices”. Of course, there might be religiously grounded practices for which one deserves to suffer. QUESTION: Can religious persecution be restricted (Chambers Dictionary) to suffering for “religious or political opinions”? Are such definitions adequate? What about the suggested one-liner?

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