Erik Cooper

Erik Cooper

by Erik Cooper

I don’t even know if you can do that. Does that qualify? I don’t come from a faith tradition that regularly observes the church seasons, but I see all my Facebook friends giving up sugar, or television, or even Facebook itself, and I think “that’s good….wow, that’s gonna be tough….I hope they can pull it off.”

What’s something I hold onto more tightly than anything? What’s something I could lay down as a sacrifice during this Lenten season?

My self-righteousness.

I know, I know. It sounds all existential doesn’t it? But the last few years have reminded me of something incredibly important.

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William Payne Portrait

Dr. William Payne

By Dr. William Payne

Recently, much of the world was shocked and dismayed by the brutal murder of a young couple in rural Pakistan when their garbage man falsely accused the pair of desecrating the Koran after he found pages of the sacred book in their trash. Following the accusation, a local religious leader inflamed violent passions by telling the people to uphold the honor of their Prophet. Like most of the Christians in the region, the couple worked as indentured servants. Before the killings, the couple’s “employer” broke their legs so they could not flee. Afterward, a hostile crowd of over 1,200 villagers took the man and wife to a brick kiln, severely beat them, burned their clothing while holding them over a fire, and then threw them alive into the fiery kiln. The entire time the pair begged for mercy, apologized, and said they were innocent of the blasphemy charge. The wife was five months pregnant. They left behind four children.

The graphic story is the tip of a mushrooming iceberg. In fact, religious minorities are persecuted all over the world. According to a 2012 Pew Report, 74 percent of the world’s population lives in places where there are high levels of social hostility toward religious minorities.

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