Imagine you’re in your home, surrounded by friends and family, peacefully celebrating your faith tradition’s most significant holiday. Suddenly an armed stranger enters and attempts to kill you and your guests—quite possibly because he hates your religion.
That nightmare became true just weeks ago in an American suburb, when a man wielding a machete forced his way into a Jewish rabbi’s home and attacked guests at a Hanukkah gathering in New York. This is not an isolated incident, either. In just one week in December, there were nine violent attacks on Jewish communities and individuals in America.
Let that sink in: Despite our country’s heritage of protecting and promoting religious liberty, our fellow Americans are daily being threatened and attacked because of their religious beliefs.
In an op-ed for CNN after the Hanukkah attack, Frida Ghitis wrote, “Anti-Semitism is a symptom of a larger societal problem. Sure, when Jews are unsafe, it is they who are most at risk, but Jews are the canary in the coalmine, an early warning sign of a community or a nation losing its moorings.”
So what larger societal problem are these attacks a symptom of? They are, quite simply, an indication that we in America have lost sight of the basic freedoms that our nation was founded upon—especially freedom of religion.