September 12, 2017
Wilberforce A!ert: Religious Freedom Taking Hold as a Movement
Wide open skies, old oil wells, and brand new wind turbines speed past my car window. 21CWI Wilberforce Alliance Director Bob Billups, Student in Residence Micah Tomasella and I are on a road trip across the Lone Star State getting college students fired up about religious freedom. In this land of opportunity and energy, there is a wind of religious freedom blowing.
21CWI is a “do-tank, ” and students are responding. Our journey has been invigorating, and it’s not over. We aren’t just sharing about our work; we’re giving students the opportunity to become advocates on the spot.
An inspiring aspect of our trip so far is how many students have taken the opportunity to write letters to two pastors in Myanmar, reminding them of God’s love and sharing scriptures to encourage them. These pastors have been unjustly held prisoner by the government, and in writing letters, these students are remembering the imprisoned as if they themselves were captives.
We have also been able to share with student life directors and campus ministry staff about 21CWI’s work. Our meetings become brainstorming sessions, with us presenting engagement opportunities for their students to take action on justice issues, and leverage the Campus Chapter resources that 21CWI has developed, such as the Build Freedom Shelter project.
One student we met at Hardin-Simmons in Abilene, Texas is from Nigeria. She was so grateful to find people in the U.S. who are remembering the suffering of those persecuted in Nigeria. It gave her joy to know that as she gets ready to move back to Nigeria to start a school for girls, citizens in this country are taking a stand for religious freedom in her country.
This is why we need to engage students. The persecuted, their families, and their fellow countrymen need us to remember them. Students on U.S. college campuses are crucial to that work. They are the future business leaders, clergy, moms and dads, artists, lawyers, and yes, even politicians. They need to understand the importance of religious freedom so that they can stand with the persecuted.
A core objective of 21CWI is to engage the church and people of other faiths for the sake of religious freedom. We are doing this across Texas. This past week, we’ve visited Hardin-Simmons University, Wayland Baptist University, Dallas Baptist University, and Howard-Payne University. In the coming days, we are headed to Baylor University, East Texas Baptist University, and the University of Mary-Hardin-Baylor.
You don’t have to be in Texas to join this movement. On November 4th and 5th across Texas and beyond, churches will join together to Speak Freedom. We have developed resources for our Texas partners that can be leveraged all across the country. Go to SpeakFreedomTexas.org and learn how you and your congregation can join the movement.
Nathan Wineinger, Director of Policy Relations
1) Go to SpeakFreedomTexas.org and learn what you can do (no matter where you are) to help your church and community stand with the persecuted.
2) Read about the current state of religious freedom in the world, where 79 percent of people live in contexts of high or very high persecution.
3) Take the next step and see how you can “wear red, light red” for #RedWednesday on November 22nd.