FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
October 20, 2008
Office of College Communication
WENHAM, MA-Shayna (not her real name) was only 10 years old and living in Bejing, China, when President Bill Clinton signed into law the International Religious Freedom Act (IRFA) on October 27, 1998. Four years later when she decided to become a Christian, though her parents were not religious, she knew the implications for her decision in China meant she'd have to keep her faith a secret.
"We had a right to believe what we chose but not a right to speak out. Many go underground because there is no freedom," she said. "And Christians in China are not the only people persecuted for their beliefs. Many people from other religions are as well."
Today Shayna is a junior biology major at Gordon College and one of several students who has come here not only for a Christ-centered liberal arts education but to study without fear of persecution. Of the 125 international students currently studying at Gordon representing 25 countries, Shayna's experiences are not uncommon. As the College acknowledges the 10th anniversary of the International Religious Freedom Act through its ongoing commitment to global education in study and in ministry, President R. Judson Carlberg has called for a renewed concern for religious freedom.
"The headlines--even as recently as last week's reports of 1700 Iraqi Christians fleeing their homes--are striking reminders that the issue of religious persecution has not gone away. Which is why we can't let up," President Carlberg said. "In many ways, the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998 helped shape foreign policy for the U.S. But it also helped American Christians--and those of us here at Gordon--to recognize the enormous gift we have to worship freely, and the responsibility that goes with it to ensure religious freedom for those around the world."
Ah Young Yoo, a senior music major from South Korea who grew up in Indonesia, also remembers many religious conflicts. As a member of a Korean Christian community in Jakarta, Yoo knew of the murder of a friend's father who was singled out for being a Christian missionary. A sister church also was burned to the ground by Muslim extremists during a Sunday worship service.
"Early on I realized being a Christian wasn't always popular or safe," said Yoo, whose family recently moved to the Boston area. "We need to be aware of these issues so we can pray and help when we can."
As the IRFA law has raised awareness for religious freedom and helped navigate many foreign policy issues for the U.S., it has also reinforced Gordon's priority for global human rights advocacy.
"At the heart of our faith is a deep concern for people who, simply because of what they believe, are endangered and threatened daily," said President Carlberg. "This anniversary (of IRFA) is a wake up call. Again."
For more information or to request an interview, please contact the Jo Kadlecek at 978.867.4752.
Gordon College is a Christian college of the liberal arts and sciences on Boston's North Shore. The college offers majors in 37 fields and has graduate programs in education and music education. Leading the way in Christian college merit, Gordon is nationally ranked for its excellence in academics and its role in character building. These achievements recognize Gordon as one of the nation's top Christian colleges.