Royal Wedding Highlights the Importance of Marriage: The excitement and expectation of the more than 2 billion people who watched Prince William and Kate Middleton wed last Friday highlighted the enduring ideal of marriage. In the royal wedding, people around the globe recognized some of our deepest human aspirations and the shared nobility of the institution of marriage.
The widespread coverage and esteem for marriage is a particularly welcome development for the institution that has endured many cultural challenges in recent decades. Americans are marrying at half the annual rate they did four decades ago, according to data posted at FamilyFacts.org. With no-fault divorce a cultural norm and more than four in 10 children born outside of marriage, the decline of marriage poses serious challenges to social stability.
Instead of letting the ideal of marriage slip further from our cultural conscience, this was a great occasion to recall the personal, social, and economic benefits of marriage and restore admiration for the institution generally—beyond the wedding of a future monarch.
Faith-Based Organizations Respond to Tornado Victims: In the wake of one of the most deadly tornado outbreaks in U.S. history, Christian relief groups mobilized in Alabama and surrounding Southern states. They are helping emergency personnel and law enforcement react to the disaster provide meals, shelter, and emotional support to the thousands of people left homeless or without power and essentials. With the death toll over 300, the spiritual hope and comfort provided by faith-based institutions like Samaritan’s Purse, the Salvation Army, and others will provide long-term care for the victims of this devastation. Alabama Governor Robert Bentley declared Sunday, May 1, a Day of Prayer to remember the victims of the natural disaster and to ask for safety and guidance as thousands prepare to rebuild their lives and communities. Faith-based and community organizations are uniquely positioned to help in the process. As James Carafano and I wrote in 2007 about their role in disaster relief, churches and ministries are able to provide spiritual relief that goes beyond material support, they have prior engagement in the community that engenders public confidence, and, as members of the community, they will stay the course when outside help recedes.
National Day of Prayer and the Importance of Religious Liberty: The power of divine petition was also recognized on a national level last week as President Obama released an official proclamation declaring Thursday, May 5, as the National Day of Prayer. The President noted the importance of prayer in the nation’s founding and history and encouraged Americans to keep the sacrifice and needs of the armed forces at the forefront of their prayers and to remember the many people who were affected by natural disasters. Despite recent proclamations of religion’s supposedly inevitable demise, nine in 10 Americans believe God exists and almost 60 percent say they pray daily. The National Day of Prayer is evidence of the strength of religious belief in America, as more than 2 million people attended over 40,000 events last year. Every year since 1952, the President has declared a day in May to be a National Day of Prayer. The day not only acknowledges the need for divine guidance and acknowledges the Judeo-Christian history that America is founded upon; it also affirms the religious liberty that provides the bedrock of a free and open society.
Egypt Continues to Violate Religious Freedom: While the U.S. celebrates the religious liberty that helps preserve a free and civil society, millions of believers in other countries are not free to openly express their faith. The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) released its 2011 annual report last Thursday, which highlighted the religious oppression of more than a dozen countries around the world. For the first time, the USCIRF listed Egypt as a “country of particular concern,” noting the ill treatment of its Coptic Christian and Muslim minorities in recent years. Even after President Mubarak’s February ouster, persecution of Christians in Egypt has continued unabated. As Nina Shea, a former U.S. delegate to the United Nation’s Human Rights Commissions and member of the USCIRF commission remarked on the plight of religious minorities in the Middle East, “The Persian Gulf region and northern Africa have few remaining Christian churches, synagogues or any other non-Muslim houses of worship. Ancient, indigenous churches have all but disappeared. Native Christians—mostly evangelicals, probably numbering in the thousands—worship largely in secret.”
The USCIRF’s full list of countries of particular concern includes Burma, China, Egypt, Eritrea, Iran, Iraq, Nigeria, North Korea, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, and Vietnam. Notably absent from the list are Pakistan and Afghanistan, even though both countries have seen an increase in violence against Christians and even Muslim minorities.
This year’s USCIRF report carried a special inscription to the late Shahbaz Bhatti, a Pakistani Christian who served as Minister for Minority Affairs:
The 2011 Annual Report is dedicated to the memory of Shahbaz Bhatti, the Pakistani Federal Minister for Minorities Affairs. Shahbaz was a courageous advocate for the religious freedoms of all Pakistanis, and he was assassinated on March 2 by the Pakistani Taliban for those efforts.
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This post was co-authored by Sarah Torre