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Faith Under Fire

A finding that one-third of the world's inhabitants live in countries where restraints on religious practice are increasing is somewhat alarming but not surprising, and definitely won't deter people who feel called to serve in those areas, local observers say.

The survey, conducted by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life, took place from mid-2006 to mid-2009. The final report, "Rising Restrictions on Religion," was recently released.

Religious oppression to some extent has been common throughout much of history, noted McMurry University professor Mark Waters, so in that sense the findings are not surprising.

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The Pew Forum survey covered five geographic areas of the world. The survey found that the Middle East-North Africa region had the largest proportion of countries experiencing increased governmental restrictions on religion, while Europe had the largest proportion of countries in which social hostilities related to religion increased. Egypt and Indonesia had high scores on both measures, according to the report.

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From The Urantia Book:

99:3.8 There is always the great danger that religion will become distorted and perverted into the pursuit of false goals, as when in times of war each contending nation prostitutes its religion into military propaganda. Loveless zeal is always harmful to religion, while persecution diverts the activities of religion into the achievement of some sociologic or theologic drive.

102:2.9 We are not blind to the fact that religion often acts unwisely, even irreligiously, but it acts. Aberrations of religious conviction have led to bloody persecutions, but always and ever religion does something; it is dynamic!

140:3.11 “Happy are they who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Happy are you when men shall revile you and persecute you and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven.

140:5.21 So often persecution does follow peace. But young people and brave adults never shun difficulty or danger. “Greater love has no man than to lay down his life for his friends.” And a fatherly love can freely do all these things—things which brotherly love can hardly encompass. And progress has always been the final harvest of persecution.

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