Thursday June 20, 2019

Bible Reading Marathon concludes at USA Capitol

"The percentage of Americans who say they believe in God has dropped a little"

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Holy Bible, Wikimedia Commons

Hundreds of Christians gathered recently in front of the United States Capitol building on a cold and rainy day.

They began a public reading of their holy book, the Bible.

They kept reading for 90 hours.

The event is called the U.S. Capitol Bible Reading Marathon. It marks the National Day of Prayer and has been taking place for 27 years.

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Holy Bible, Wikimedia Commons

Pastor Jeffrey Light of NOVUM Baptist Church in Reva, Virginia spoke to VOA about the event. He said its goal is to show the importance of religion in American life.

“It’s foundational for who we are as human beings to know our purpose, and our purpose comes from our creator,” Light said.

Few know the part of religion in America better than Alan Cooperman. He leads study of the subject for the Washington-based Pew Research Center.

Related article: Is Christianity under threat in Middle East?

The center did two major studies on religion in the U.S. in 2007 and 2014. The research found that the American public is growing less religious.

“The percentage of Americans who say they believe in God has dropped a little,” Cooperman told VOA. He explained that the percentage of Americans who say they pray daily has dropped, along with the percentage who say they go to religious services at least once a month.

Cooperman said the share of Americans who do not identify with any religion has been rising very quickly.

In his words, “It’s gone from 7 percent in 2000, 16 percent in 2007, to 23 percent overall today.”

Cooperman believes the drop in religious involvement reflects a generational change. Young Americans are growing into adulthood with looser ties to religion. The children of today are also less involved in religious activities than the children of past generations.

Religion and politics

But lawmakers and government officials are more likely to be religious than the general public. Organized faith appears to still play an important part in U.S. politics.

More than 90 percent of the United States Congress is Christian compared to 70 percent of the general public. At a recent Senate discussion, members of Congress talked about how they balance faith and politics.

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Mike Fitzpatrick at Prayer Breakfast, Wikipedia Commons

Senator James Lankford is a Republican from Oklahoma. He told VOA that faith is “the lens” he looks through.

He added, “If it’s a faith, it affects everything.”

Many religions are represented in Congress. Along with Christian legislators are Muslims, Hindus, and Jews. There are also some atheist lawmakers.

‘Overwhelmingly religious’

For Cooperman, even the increasing number non-religious Americans may not be enough to change the role of faith in American life and politics.

“…the American public remains overwhelmingly religious,” he said. In his words, It’s a very religious country. Three-quarters of Americans, about 77 percent of the population, still identify with a religious group.

Pastor Jeffrey Light agrees. He said the role of religion will continue to play an important part in this year’s presidential election.

“For me and those that are seekers of the word of God,” he said, “we will certainly seek a leader who honors God.” (VOA)

 

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“The Team Was Treated Relatively Well” During Police Questioning, U.S. Christians Held in Laos

Throughout their period of detention, “the team was treated relatively well,” Vision Beyond Borders said in a recent statement. 

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Christian villagers in Laos are shown in an undated photo. RFA

Three U.S. citizens held in Laos last month for handing out religious tracts were “treated well” during questioning by police, but Lao Christians still face persecution at the hands of state authorities, the missionary group to which the three belong said this week.

“Yes, they were treated well, and we appreciate that,” Eric Blievernicht, operations manager for the Wyoming-based group Vision Beyond Borders, told RFA’s Lao Service on Thursday in a brief telephone interview.

“They‘re home safe now, and they’re looking forward to continuing their ministry,” Blievernicht said.

The three volunteers—identified by their given names, Wayne, Autumn, and Joseph—were picked up by police in a scenic corner of northern Laos’ Luang Namtha province on April 8 after handing out religious materials to villagers, a policeman and a witness told RFA in an earlier report.

Authorities then seized their passports and took them to a guesthouse in the provincial capital, about 60 kms (36 miles) from where they had been arrested, but allowed them free movement of their quarters and the surrounding village, and the three were deported to Thailand 10 days later.

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In a report released April 29, the bipartisan U.S. Commission for International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) placed Laos on its Tier 2 Watch List for what it called continuing serious abuses of religious freedoms. Pixabay

Throughout their period of detention, “the team was treated relatively well,” Vision Beyond Borders said in a recent statement.

“They were never hollered at, the officials never laid a hand on them, and they even provided bottled water when the team was at the [police] station,” the missionary group, which distributes bibles and recordings of religious messages around the world, said.

Speaking to RFA, Blievernight said however that Lao Christians themselves face greater difficulties every day, with Lao authorities “harassing Christians and breaking up meetings and making it difficult for them to gather.”

“So we’re continuing to pray for Laos and want to do whatever we can to support the churches there,” he said.

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Though the one-party communist state’s constitution “ostensibly protects its people’s inherent right to religious freedom,” regulations controlling religious observance in Laos are vaguely worded and open to interpretation by local authorities, USCIRF said. Pixabay

‘Continuing serious abuses’

In a report released April 29, the bipartisan U.S. Commission for International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) placed Laos on its Tier 2 Watch List for what it called continuing serious abuses of religious freedoms.

Also Read: Eating Walnuts Everyday Reduces Risk of Heart Diseases: Study

Though the one-party communist state’s constitution “ostensibly protects its people’s inherent right to religious freedom,” regulations controlling religious observance in Laos are vaguely worded and open to interpretation by local authorities, USCIRF said.

“Some Lao authorities remained deeply suspicious of Christians, sometimes resulting in social exclusion, harassment, and arbitrary detention by law enforcement officials,” the rights group said, adding that it had received reports throughout 2018 of persecution of Christians in Savannakhet, “a province known for its religious intolerance.” (RFA)