Total Pageviews

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Blinded By Religion

On December 5, 2012, a faulty heater exploded in the Shin Abad elementary school in the tiny village of Piranshahr and severely burned over 40 students.
Quick to cover up their incompetence, the Mullah's intelligence agents warned families to not conduct interviews with news agencies. It is a well known fact that many of the elementary schools in Iran have worn-out heaters that desperately need to be replaced. A few days later after the tragedy, two of the young students died as a result of their severe burns.
Pictured here is ten-year old Yeganeh recovering from her burns in a local hospital  When the  Mullah saw her picture, he publicly complained that she was not wearing her hijab.
Religious rituals and traditions are destructive and deceptive!! The disease of being blinded by religion is a disease that can effect all of us. God desires mercy and compassion and instead many religious leaders fall prey to a system of rules and regulations that devalues and destroys human beings.
During his earthly ministry, Jesus encountered the blindness of religious traditions many times when he met with the Pharisees and scribes. On one occasion, the Pharisees complained to Jesus that his disciples were not following the prescribed Jewish hand washing tradition before eating.
Jesus immediately rebuked the blindness of the pharisees and accused them of replacing the law of God with their man-made traditions. The Pharisee were obsessed with outward religious purity while ignoring the real problem, the sinfulness of their hearts.
Jesus pointed out their dilemma that they were busy honoring God with their lips while their hearts were far away from him. "The real problem," Jesus emphasized was the condition of the human heart. "It's not what goes into your body that defiles you, "Jesus proclaimed, " you are defiled by what comes out of your heart."
The point Jesus was making was that their religious traditions had blinded them to the real problem and had corrupted the true intent of God's law.
Sadly, the Mullah in Iran is much like the Pharisees that Jesus rebuked because of their religious traditions. Instead of showing mercy and compassion for the young burn victim, he was more concerned that she was not in compliance with Islamic law by not wearing her veil.
How deep the blindness and deception!!
Yet, let's not be too harsh on the Mullah. All of us can fall victim to the blindness of religion. We need to take seriously God's command and what he requires of us.
Micah 6:8 is God's prescription that will keep us safe from this blindness:

 "He has told you, O man, what is good, and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness and to walk humbly with your God."

 We can be safe from religious blindness if we practice what Micah tells us by having a heart of mercy and humility. Have you examined your heart today?

Monday, December 10, 2012

A Hunger for Justice and Freedom

"God Blesses those who hunger and thirst for justice:
  for they will be satisfied."
     (Jesus: Matthew 5:6. Sermon on the mount)

I remember working at the hospital when I discovered the good news on my cell phone.
"Nasrin Sotoudeh ends her 49 day hunger strike after Iranian officials agree to her demands."
I quickly took a second look to make sure I wasn't dreaming. Its not everyday that the government of Iran listens or agrees to the demands of political prisoners. Yes, it was really true! I wasn't dreaming after all. Tears of joy flooded my eyes. I rejoiced! I was so happy! I hurriedly posted the news on my Facebook page.
 For almost 50 long and emotionally difficult days, imprisoned human rights attorney, Nasrin Sotoudeh, courageously challenged the unjust restrictions the government of Iran had put on her family. Nasrin was now in her third year of serving a six year sentence in Evin Prison for defending the rights of protesters and speaking out against juvenile executions. Iranian officials had not been satisfied to just punish Nasrin. Now they were placing travel restrictions on her 12 year-old daughter Mehraveh and barring her visitations with the rest of her family.
 There is a limit to how much a person can stand by and watch a government oppress and violate the basic rights of human beings. All of her life, Nasrin had come to the rescue of the oppressed and stood in their defense. Now even behind bars, she fearlessly stood up against the system that had imprisoned her and challenged them to a contest of wills. And Nasrin won!!
 It was a very long and difficult battle. Her husband Reza many times tried to persuade her to give up the hunger strike. Yet Nasrin remained defiant and unmovable.
Now I understand why I dedicated my new book, "The Rose of Nowruz: dreams of hope and freedom," to this incredibly courageous lady.
There were many Twitter storm events for Nasrin, many, many countless prayers on her behalf. Everyday on my facebook page, I posted the latest news about her hunger strike. There is a very important principle to what Nasrin did. Jesus promised in his famous sermon on the mount, that God blesses those who hunger for justice. Nasrin's hunger strike was more than simply doing without food to get a corrupt government's attention. It was a hunger for justice, a hunger for freedom and I truly believe God rewarded her courage and compassion  He showed Nasrin and her family mercy and moved on the hearts of the Iranian prison officials.
 Certainly there are more battles and hurdles for Nasrin to overcome. She is still being unjustly held behind bars and even after her release she will be prohibited from practicing law for several years.
 Nasrin has inspired me that the hunger for justice and freedom can be won, but its a very long and difficult mountain to climb.
Yet God promises us He is with us. We're not alone. He will bless our efforts and we will be satisfied.
 If you hunger for justice, I hope your role model is Nasrin Sotoudeh. She is a shining star in the darkness of Iran.