Religion can bring out the best, and unfortunately the worst, in people ....
The Sydney Morning Herald recently reported on Catherine Hamlin and her late husband Reg, both doctors, who have given the entire working lives helping women in Ethiopia who suffer from terrible birth injuries.
Often giving birth at a very young age, and in unhealthy conditions without medical help, these girls suffer from incontinence caused by the injuries (fistulas), which makes them socially ostracised. The Hamlins performed thousands of operation to restore good health since they went to Africa in the 1960s.
Several Fistula hospitals have been built, and Catherine, now 84, is leading a campaign to train and send out Ethiopian midwives to villages all over the country. The couple's motivation came from the words of Jesus: "Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me." Catherine says: "I do believe this is a God-given job".
The same issue of the SMH reported on a christian school in Australia which has been accused of defrauding the Government of $2M by falsifying enrolments to attract greater subsidies.
I won't give any further details because I don't want to be a gossip, and because the matter has not been resolved legally, but reportedly the principal has been sacked and the school closed.
These things just shouldn't happen. We christians need to learn that the ends never justify bad means, and that if we trust God, we should never need to cut corners.
Christians face persecution from other religions in many places over the world:
- In Sri Lanka, a Christian pastor was shot dead in February, and since then a "wave" of attacks, including burning a church down, attacks by armed mobs, stony and threats, have been made against Christians.
- Violence against Christians in India is increasing, according to a UN representative; in many cases police are complicit or turning a blind eye. Hindu extremists have reacted in recent years to the conversion of former Hindus to Christianity - efforts to free the low Dalit caste from oppression have been particularly effective and resented.
- In Palestine, itself suffering in the ongoing "war" between Islamic militants and Israel, Christians have been murdered abused and intimidated, leading to an exodus of Christians from the country.
- Christians in Iran face imprisonment, harassment and discrimination in Iran, despite being guaranteed religious freedom in law.
- A recent court ruling in Malaysia that a woman did not have the right to convert from Islam to another religion has alarmed religious minorities in that country.
We in the west need to be careful about being too judgmental about these problems - after all similar acts are in our heritage. Humility and tolerance all round would be a start!