Re-Appreciating Our Freedom To Worship

Seeing how the Chinese government can interfere with religious freedom helps us better appreciate our own–Thanksgiving makes one think of the Pilgrims. One of the reasons they came to the New World was freedom of religion, not only the freedom to worship whatever religion they were called to, but to practice that religion without government interference. We all know that the Chinese government does not make religious freedom easy, and yet when I read recently about rules issued about the practice of Islam in a northern province where 46% of the people are Muslims, I was reminded of what we tend to take for granted in the United States. The rules aren’t actually new but they were recently made more prominent, posted in mosques and public places. The imam’s sermon cannot be longer than 30 minutes. Prayer in public areas outside the mosques is forbidden. In Khotan, one of the province’s main cities, the residents are not allowed to worship at mosques outside of town. The passports of Uighurs, who are mainly Muslim, are being confiscated, to better control their going to Mecca for The Hadj, the pilgrimage which is one of Islam’s five pillars, and also it is said to keep local Muslims from having contact with other Muslims. There were many other rules such as keeping students from leaving the university during Ramadan to prevent them from fasting and joining their families for the evening meal.
The debate between the separation of church and state in the United States can sometimes take so many turns, it’s helpful sometimes to reconnect to what religious interference really is.