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Religious Freedom in the World: A Global Report on Freedom and Persecution.

Edited by Paul Marshall. Nashville: Broadman & Holman, 2000. Pp. x, 335. Paperback $14.99.

The last decade of intranational conflicts has clearly demonstrated two things: there are people who are still willing to die for their faith, and, unfortunately, there are those who will kill for their religion. Paul Marshall understands the critical role of religion in the analysis of geopolitical events. "It is ... absurd to examine a political order without attending to the role of religion," he states, rightly concluding that any "analysis that ignores religious dynamics should be inherently suspect" (p. 13). Nevertheless, the persecution of people of faith by people of other faith "is a topic which has been sorely neglected" (p.9). Marshall has thus produced Religious Freedom in the World, a book that builds on his major contribution to the issue, the popularizing of the complex reality of religious freedom.

The book documents religious freedom in seventy-five countries. Both context ("background") and content ("religious freedom") are offered in an easy-to-read, user-friendly style. Salient facts support strong summaries of the countries profiled. The United States is also profiled, thus reducing the potential charge of Western arrogance in such an exercise.

One does need to manage expectations while using this book. Thus, while country summaries are time sensitive, they are also short on nuance. Islam, for example, is not only portrayed as a monolith but is presented only in its most aberrant form.

Herein one also encounters the Western need to quantify and keep score, for the book presents a numerical rating system that ranks countries on a continuum between most free and least free on the religious liberty scale. The rationale presented for such a system is thin at best and might have the effect of trivializing the complexity of this issue. Responses to religious freedom issues are often knee-jerk reactions, and this intellectually blunt instrument will not necessarily be conducive to positive change.

Finally, there is the curious placement of an essay on American foreign policy at the beginning of the book. It is written with an antiadministration bias, with neither grace nor nuance, and comes across as an "inside the Beltway" extension of the ideological culture wars. Being neither helpful nor needed, it distracts from the purpose and scholarship of the book.

Robert Seiple is President of the Institute for Global Engagement, dedicated to understanding the causes of, and sustainable solutions for, religious-freedom issues. For eleven years he was the President of World Vision, Inc., and, more recently, served as the first ever U.S. ambassador-at-large for international religious freedom.
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Title Annotation:Review
Author:Seiple, Robert
Publication:International Bulletin of Missionary Research
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Jan 1, 2001
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