Religious fidelity and free speech can learn the art of coexistence despite the acerbic challenges that have flowed from the terrible Paris shootings and the arguments about Charlie Hebdo magazine, says Ekklesia associate and Middle East analyst Dr Harry Hagopian. The much harder – and harsher – question is whether we as followers of a religion or as advocates of free speech can coexist too?
The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity (WPCU) usually passes me by. But this year (it runs from 18-25 January 2015) I have paid a little more attention. This is largely due to the present febrile atmosphere around the violence and fear which has been aroused in Europe by religious confrontation and intolerance, partly by the scale of rising inequality and a little by some anxiety as to my responsibilities as the representative of my Quaker Meeting to the local Churches Together group.
Nearly half (46 per cent) of Americans say they are more concerned about the government interfering with the ability of people to freely practice their religion, while an equal number (46 per cent) say they are more concerned about religious groups trying to pass laws that force their beliefs on others.
While some heavily red (in this case, right-wing Republican) areas of the United States downplay or even ignore Martin Luther King Day, it has generally won widespread support across the country since it was introduced in 1983 to mark his birthday.
In 2015 Martin Luther King Day falls on Tuesday 19 January. There is a moving article on the website of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change by Dr King's widow, Coretta Scott King (who died in 2006), herself an important author, activist and civil rights leader.