Popular Articles

The nature of news can make the world feel grimmer than it is

“One response, and perhaps the most important one, which should fundamentally shape our lives, is simply refusing to concede that what is given in our news is the way the world is. It is a medium that, among its exemplary reports, also emphasizes the unusual, the conflictual, the dramatic, not the usual, the routine, the everyday, that marks most of our lives. It does not reflect the world that we actually live in each day.

Implications of the Hagia Sophia’s Conversion to a Mosque

“Hagia Sophia’s conversion is the culmination of Erdoğan’s long campaign to transform Turkey into a neo-Ottoman state or even empire…. On March 31, 2018, Erdoğan himself recited the first verse of the Quran there, dedicating his words to the “souls of all who left us this work as inheritance, especially Istanbul’s conqueror.”
Erdoğan’s reference to the conqueror of then Constantinople, Mehmet II, was quite deliberate and illustrates his desire to imitate the Ottoman sultan. As part of its reopening under the COVID-19 pandemic, Turkey had planned to reopen its mosques on June 12, but Erdoğan pushed for the reopening to take place on May 29 instead, the 567th anniversary of Constantinople’s capture by the sultan. Hence, the mosques’ reopening would also be a celebration of the act of conquest.”
Had good reaction to this article. Ambassador Brownback expressed his appreciation, and their was good feedback from Vice President Pence’s office. On Friday July 31, it was circulated on Capitol Hill.

Turkey is moving toward a neo-Ottoman regime with calls to convert Hagia Sophia

Turkey has established military bases in Qatar and Somalia, deployed armed drones in northern Cyprus. It has made repeated military incursions into Syria and Iraq, and has likely made covert weapons shipments to terrorists in Nigeria.
There is also increased repression at home. Turkey leads the world in the number of imprisoned journalists. One aspect of this propaganda effort has been to threaten the status of Hagia Sophia, which was, for a millennium, the greatest church building in the world.

These events might play well at home, but have increased animosity to Turkey abroad and have left the country looking for friends where it can find them.

Growing Animus Toward Religious Schools in Sweden

My latest article with Jacob Rudenstrand (that’s his photo–he’s the lead author) on pressure on religious schools and other religious institutions in Sweden.
“The government schools have their own beliefs. One detailed study shows “a secularist discourse was hegemonic in the classroom practice and implied [a] norm of talking about religion, religions and worldviews as something outdated and belonging to history. A non-religious, atheistic position was articulated as neutral and unbiased in relation to the subject matter and was associated with being a rational, critically thinking person.”

Why these Christian missionaries donated to a mosque in Indonesia

Part of my ongoing series on positive Muslim and Christian and other religions relations in Indonesia, the world’s largest Muslim country, with more Muslims than the entire Middle East. I don’t deny ongoing persecution, usually covering it in my more documented, scholarly studies, which I have linked to previously, but these articles are to give the usual flavor of everyday life in the country.

What the Coronavirus and Lockdowns Can Teach Us about Politics

“Politics is inevitably judging between not only legitimate and illegitimate demands but also between legitimate demands, which are usually much harder to dismiss. And we are often, probably usually, judging based on uncertain information, even ignorance.
I could list many politicians whom I think are doing stupid things…. But rest assured there is no right answer to these complex issues lying out there in some neo-Platonic universe waiting simply to be found and implemented.
Politics is itself hard: it is arguing and competing and fighting over contested, often differently valued, and often underinformed, issues and policies.
But if you want to abandon the jarring messiness of politics, then Vladimir Lenin, Adolf Hitler, Mao Zedong, and Xi Jinping would be happy to suggest some alternatives.”

Muslims and Evangelicals Form Joint Working Group to Tackle Extremism

“On April 20, members of the world’s largest Muslim organization and one of the world’s largest Christian organizations announced the creation of a joint working group to counter two threats to religious freedom and to society more broadly: religious extremism and secular extremism.
The Muslim participants represent the Humanitarian Islam, or Islam Nusantara, movement, which is rooted in the Nahdlatul Ulama (NU), with an estimated 90 million followers, primarily in its home country of Indonesia.The Christian participants are from the World Evangelical Alliance (WEA), which, due to the massive global growth of evangelicalism over the last century, has become one of the world’s major Christian bodies, drawing together over 600 million Christians in national alliances in 130 countries.”

The Jew of Tondano

“We sat by the side of the road in the hills near Tonado, the heat and humidity offset by wonderful mangoes from the local roadside fruit stand, whose owners simply plucked them from their trees thirty feet away. We were waiting for Toar Palilingan, the leader of the only functioning synagogue in Indonesia. Since his family was mostly from the local Minehasa people, we hoped we could recognize him when he arrived. But recognition was no problem. He was hard to miss. Wearing a black suit despite the tropical heat, white open-necked shirt, pointy black shoes, tzitzit, and topped with a sharp black fedora. I thought: ‘We’re in Brooklyn; but, no, we were in the beautiful tropical highlands of the Northeast corner of the island of Sulawesi, Indonesia.”

Praying Together, Even When Divided

Keep watch, dear Lord, with those who work, or watch, or weep this night, and give your angels charge over those who
sleep. Tend the sick, Lord Christ; give rest to the weary, bless the dying, soothe the suffering, pity the afflicted, shield the
joyous; and all for your love’s sake. Amen.

Changes in Gambia Threaten Its Traditions Of Pacifist Islam

“Gambia’s draft constitution may further undermine its traditional Islam. The late, great Christian scholar at Yale, Lamin Sanneh, describes it in his magisterial Beyond Jihad: The Pacifist Tradition in West African Islam. Note the word ‘pacifist.’ Lamin was himself from Gambia and was a convert to Christianity from Islam, so he was also personally aware of the subject.”
Received thanks for the article from the Gambia Christian Council, who is now distributing it (on the day it was published).

The Muslim ‘Amish’ environmentalists of Indonesia

Britain’s most rampant rapist ignites homosexuality debate in Indonesia

New Christian-Muslim Political Alliances

On the growing alliance between European (mainly Christian Democratic) parties and Indonesian Muslims. Republished by the Religious Freedom Institute, and distributed by Nahdlatul Ulama, the world’s largest Muslim organization.

Substituting Values for Laws: Warnings from Canada

Addressing religious freedom issues in the West, especially trends in Canada. “One of the reasons for forbidding government discrimination on matters such as religion is precisely so that private institutions will be able to discriminate, appropriately and justly, according to their own particular beliefs as to what supports their distinctive mission. Governmental neutrality is intended to be a foundation for a lively and diverse societal pluralism, not for society to become a mirror of the government itself.

Baylor Professor Assesses the Main Factors in Christian Persecution

An interview on why the persecution of Christians is often downplayed.

Warriors as Exemplars of Faith

The Many Charms Of West Sumatra: Grandmas With Eight Husbands, Teens Studying Plato And The Best Food In The World

This is part of my ongoing series on Indonesia’s religious relations.

This Indonesian village tradition has kept peace between Christians and Muslims

This is part of my ongoing series on Indonesia’s religious relations.

Religious freedom has never drawn a bigger crowd (from all walks of faith)

I was an invited participant in the State Department-hosted July 16-18, three-day high level “Ministerial” on religious freedom. The Ministerial was launched by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and hosted by Ambassador-at-Large for Religious Freedom Sam Brownback. The official conference drew 1,000 invited people, and invitations had to be closed off months in advance. I describe the whole Ministerial in my article.

“From DC to Mecca: Should ‘Human Dignity’ Be the New ‘Religious Freedom’?”

Quoted in “From DC to Mecca: Should ‘Human Dignity’ Be the New ‘Religious Freedom’?”

A Review of Steve Waldman’s Sacred Liberty: America’s Long, Bloody, and Ongoing Struggle for Religious Freedom), Christian Century

“Steven Waldman has something new to say about religious freedom in the US: His narrative includes heroes and villains on both sides of the political divide.”

The State Department’s Commission on Unalienable Rights: Concerns and Five Recommendations

Rabbi Yisroel Goldstein Calls for Religious Freedom in Full, for Individuals and Institutions

Robert Kagan and the Many Meanings of Liberalism

In this article, I want to address how Westerners, especially Americans, including Christians, are currently addressing politics. The level of discourse is now quite abysmal (much worse than even two decades ago). One major problem for many is that politics is reduced to a simplistic binary—liberal/non liberal—while Christians often lack any theory of the task of government.

Indonesian Presidential Election Win for Jokowi Is Good News

Muslim leader Yahya Cholil Staquf: Need to address “problematic elements of Islamic orthodoxy

After Christchurch attack.

Religious Tensions on the Rise in Indonesia

As noted above, ReligionUnplugged, is a newly-launched news service on the importance of religion in everyday life. It is a project of The Media Project.

Goodbye Ahok, Hello “BTP”: Inside Indonesia’s Convoluted Politics

How a Catholic thinker made human rights universal

I did not write this, but it is largely an interview with me exploring the Catholic roots of much of the United Nation’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Angelus is the magazine of the Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles, the country’s largest, with 5 million professing members, and it is a very professional publication. The piece has received strong positive responses and comments, especially from senior Catholics, including Archbishop Chaput of Philadelphia, Bishop William Murphy of Rockville Centre, and Ambassador Joseph Ghougassian. Jim Haninck, President of the American Maritain Society, forwarded it to his mailing list and posted it on his own website.

Indonesia, Google and the Surveillance State

European Court of Human Rights Verdict Will Exacerbate Religious Conflict

With Jacob Rudenstrand.

Blasphemy Returns as a Political Weapon in Indonesia

Kipling’s “The Ballad of East and West” is Hardly Racist

A defense of Nobel-Prize-winning author Rudyard Kipling from charges of racism by those who appear never to have read his work.

Conflicts in Indonesian Islam

Pence Meets Indonesia’s Top Muslim Leader After Church Attacks: The US supports major Sunni group’s efforts to fight radicalization

Quoted extensively in Christianity Today article by Kate Shellnut.

Cause for Alarm? Indonesia’s Weekend of Violence Prompts Vigilance and Concern

When Blasphemy Runs Amok

Former Jakarta Governor Ahok, Convicted for Blasphemy, Finally Appeals

The Ambiguities of Religious Freedom in Indonesia

Indonesia’s Religious Freedom, Constitutional Court, and Ulama Council

Indonesia’s Constitutional Court Strikes Major Blow Defending Religious Freedom

Saudi Influence and Islamic Radicalism in Indonesia

There were various commentaries on this article, for example https://www.worldwatchmonitor.org/coe/indonesia-saudi-influence-behind-rise-in-islamic-extremism-as-churches-continue-to-be-closed/.

Political Islam in Indonesia

Indonesia’s Blasphemy Conviction Threatens Muslim Democracy. But I Still Have Hope.

An Indonesian Antidote To ISIS

With Robert Carle.

In Jakarta, a Key Test of Tolerance Looms for the Muslim World

Tolerating Blasphemy: Lessons from An Indonesian Election

Among the Believers

The Southeast Asian Front

Terror’s Not New to Indonesia

Jihad comes to Indonesia; Bin Laden’s Allies Attempt a Hostile Takeover

Home Away from Home: Lamin Sanneh has journeyed from Africa to the West, and from Islam to Christianity

John Stott, Scholar and Pastor

Reflections on the death of John Stott.

Russian Recognition

With Scott Palmer. On recognizing Russia’s sacrifices in World War II.

Fundamentalists and Other Fun People

Reflections on the 2004 U.S. elections and the widespread use and misuse of the “fundamentalism.

God Led Me in Unexpected Directions

Biographical reflections in the magazine of the Billy Graham Association on how I ended up where I am, working on religious freedom.

True Pluralism is founded in God’s Patience

Reflections on pluralism and the parable of the wheat and the tares.

The Thought Police

An extended, 7,000 word, and thoughtful review of Silenced. The essay was selected by New York Times columnist David Brooks for one of his annual “Sidney Awards” for the most informative columns of the year. See David Brooks, “The Sidney Wards: Part 2,” The New York Times, December 28, 2012. Read Article Here.

The State Department vs Free Speech

With Nina Shea.

Blasphemy in Pakistan

The Murder of a Muslim Moderate

With Nina Shea.

“Blasphemy, “Islamophobia,” and the “Repression of Dissent”

Muzzling in the Name of Islam

Endangered Salman

The Mohammed Cartoons

Living Like Gerbils

Work and Vocation: Some Historical Reflections

Countering Extremism in Indonesia and Beyond

Misunderstanding Al Qaeda

Radical Islam’s Move on Africa

World Silence Over Slain Muslims

Sirens Over Africa

The Global Rise of Islamic Extremism

This War We’re in: Taking Extremist Islam Seriously

Terror’s Not New to Indonesia

The Next Hotbed Of Islamic Radicalism

Motive for Massacre

Radical Islam in Nigeria: the Talibanization of West Africa

Religious Freedom and the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights


Western Christians’ response to Denials of Religious Freedom

Letting the World Pass Us By

A civil debate about religious freedom

A review of John Corvino, Ryan Anderson, and Sherif Gergis.

Conceptual Issues in Religious Freedom Research

Why Religious Freedom Must Be a Top Priority

Possible Dimensions of Religious Freedom

“Religious Freedom” & “Persecution and Martyrdom”

Religious Freedom in the World

A one-hundred country survey of the treatment of all religions, with essays on patterns, regions and trends. (edited, with three chapters)

Worship at Will

Article using statistics from Religious Freedom in the World.

Patterns of Religious Freedom” A Global View

Patterns and Contexts of Religious Freedom and Persecution

Religious Freedom and the Role of NGOs

107-112 of Tajeldin Hamad, Anne Smart, Frederick Swarts, eds.

Religious Freedom

Religious Freedom in the World

First Freedom under Siege

Keeping the Faith: Religion, Freedom and International Affairs

131-140 of Calvin M. Logue and Jean DeHart, eds.

Battle Urged Against Religious Persecution

Article by Lee Romney on my work.

Politicizing Religion?

On why it is commonly wrong to say that something is political (or social, or economic) not religious.

Politics and Democracy

The book is for the 100th anniversary of the Maluku church.

The Travails of Evangelical Politics

In The Media

Name of Video
Paul Marshall
Name of Video
Paul Marshall
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Paul Marshall