Religious people around the world face discrimination and persecution, largely by other religious people. Thankfully, religious leaders of all traditions can breathe easier this week because Rabbi David Saperstein was nominated to be the U.S. Ambassador at Large for International Religious Freedom.
What is it about humanity that we want to hurt each other in the name of all that is holy? Too many of us get offended because other people name what is sacred differently and practice their faith in their own way.
Religion News Service quoted Secretary of State John Kerry in his report on the status of religious freedom around the globe:
In 2013, the world witnessed the largest displacement of religious communities in recent memory. In almost every corner of the globe, millions of Christians, Muslims, Hindus, and others representing a range of faiths were forced from their homes on account of their religious beliefs.... Communities are disappearing from their traditional and historic homes and dispersing across the geographic map. In conflict zones, in particular, this mass displacement has become a pernicious norm.
Those of us in Metropolitan Community Churches (MCC) know firsthand what religious bigotry looks like. We have had our churches burned, our ministers assaulted, and our members insulted and harmed by persecution. For more than 45 years, we have chosen the better way of love and forgiveness. We have chosen the prophetic way of speaking out and living our lives in a way that affirms our equality before God. For that, we have been denounced by Christians who should, instead, be celebrating our lives and our families.
Although we have made progress in the arenas of marriage and federal employment in the United States, we still do not have employment protections for all LGBTQ people in this country. In the 40+ countries where we have ministries, there are many where laws allow officials to persecute or imprison our church members because they believe that being lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or queer (LGBTQ) is a gift from God.
Rabbi David Saperstein knows that our religious freedom is a life and death issue, just as it is for others around the world who are being persecuted for their beliefs. When the U.S. Department of State and President Obama nominated Rabbi Saperstein, we knew that a longtime advocate for equality and justice for LGBTQ people was going to gain a platform from which he can support religious freedom for all people.
As the global head of MCC, my respect grew for Rabbi Saperstein when I followed him on the second President's Advisory Council on Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships. Today, we are both mobilizing the faith world to save the planet through the National Religious Partnership for the Environment. It is a deep honor to serve with him.
Recently, Rabbi Saperstein and I were together with other faith leaders at the White House when President Obama signed the Executive Order for LGBTQ employment protections in federal contracts. MCC leaders know Rabbi Saperstein as the Director and Counsel of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, where he advocates for all people who are oppressed. We also know him for speaking truth to power. His voice at the Human Rights Campaign lobby day for faith leaders inspired us as we prepared to meet with officials in Congress on LGBTQ rights.
Rabbi Saperstein is a friend of all persons of faith. We are praying for him. We are praying for all people of faith -- and people of no faith -- that peace will become a reality. We are working hand-in-hand with people of good will from all walks of life to create a world full of creativity rather than strife, prosperity rather than greed, and kindness as a universal value.