Only weeks after the ravages of the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, Liberty editor Lincoln Steed visited Myanmar, Thailand, and Sri Lanka, countries with significant damage and loss of life. While he did see some of the devastation firsthand, and heard eyewitness reports of running from a wall of water, the trip was more concerned with projecting religious freedom values to Myanmar and Sri Lanka.
Myanmar is ruled by a repressive and secretive military regime that looks with disfavor on all outside influence—including religion. The indigenous Buddhist faith is naturally strongly supported by the state. All religious activity is held to a standard of supporting the state and its rejection of outside influences.
A few days later in Colombo, Sri Lanka, Lincoln Steed and the team heard troubling details of a proposed anticonversion law that has since become a near certainty. Sri Lanka, while a more open society than Myanmar, has been wracked by a long-running civil war and disrupted by the tsunami. The result is a sense of threat to Sri Lankan society that has easily converted into a sense of siege by the state-supported Buddhist leadership. Buddhists want the law to stop what they claim is improper activity by Christian aid organizations in the wake of the tsunami. Against the claim of coercion or bribery to obtain conversion, the aid organizations were professing to have no agenda to convert Sri Lankans to Christianity. Again it was obvious to Editor Steed that religious liberty must be protected and that silence is not a good strategy in the face of challenge and persecution.
Author: Lincoln E. Steed
Lincoln E. Steed is the editor of Liberty magazine, a 200,000 circulation religious liberty journal which is distributed to political leaders, judiciary, lawyers and other thought leaders in North America. He is additionally the host of the weekly 3ABN television show "The Liberty Insider," and the radio program "Lifequest Liberty."