Bad news is all around us. Turn on the news or scroll through the feed on your phone and tales of desperation and deprivation span every corner of the globe. Yet good news – heartwarming, soul-affirming, and miraculous stories – are also all around us. Led by conscience and kindness, people radiate grace all the time, sometimes with simple, unprompted smiles, and others with a gift of love.
This is our humanity, the awe-inspiring tapestry of goodness that binds us together. This is what happens when we are free to believe or not believe – and to act on those beliefs – as our conscience leads. Humanity is why religious freedom will always win out against governments and nonstate actors seeking to repress and control it.
There isn’t a government, entity, or person in the world that can confine the thoughts in our heads or hearts. They may attempt to restrict our expression, practice, or sharing of those thoughts and beliefs – and many an authoritarian government has tried. The governments of Iran, China, Russia, and North Korea, for example, have deplorable records protecting the right of individuals to believe or not believe and broad lack of respect for the human dignity of all. These are the bad news stories we hear constantly.
But we don’t have to look far to uncover the good news. Albania has emerged as an important partner in the battle for international religious freedom, both regionally and globally. Just a few decades ago, its communist regime banned religious practice. But today, this Muslim-majority country’s rich religious and cultural heritage is thriving. It is from this platform that Albania takes up the cause of religious freedom, such as hosting a Western Balkans conference with religious leaders on religion as an instrument of peace last November with heads of state, religious leaders, and myself.
In Mauritius, the Council of Religions, a local organization composed of representatives from 18 different faiths and denominations, hosts regular religious ceremonies and celebrations to foster mutual understanding and enhance interfaith collaboration among faith communities. These efforts foster respect and acceptance and also help diffuse longstanding tensions between Hindus and Muslims. They even released a children’s book in French and English discussing the different religions and practices on the island.
Sometimes a tragedy reveals true humanity. Following the May 2018 attacks by a family of suicide bombers on three churches in Surabaya, Indonesia, local Muslims denounced the attacks – which killed 13 persons and injured 40 others – and visited the churches to express sympathy. Christian leaders said they were encouraged by sympathy and support shown toward the affected Christians by the local Muslim community. One of the churches attacked began a monthly tradition inviting persons of every faith to commemorate the tragedy.
Someone unknown once said, “If you cannot find faith in humanity, be the faith in humanity.” That is what each of these good news stories – and countless others like them – represent. Each one is an uplifting example of resilience, compassion, and dignity of the human spirit, underpinned by faith and belief. It is our humanity at work, and it is this very humanity that will win the ultimate battle for religious freedom.