I recently met someone who had just returned from a once-in-a-lifetime vacation to Kathmandu. She spoke in glowing terms about the rich history of Nepal, the beauty of the Himalayas, and the congeniality of the people.
Her guide told her that there is harmony between people of all religions – Hindus, Buddhists, Muslims, and Christians.
Of course, I knew this last statement was far from the mark.
My first impulse was to tell my new friend about the persecution of Christians and other injustices in modern-day Nepal, but then I realized I often convey as one-sided an image of Nepal as she did.
Nepal is neither the place described by the starry-eyed tourist, nor the site of great struggles against poverty and dark forces; it is both.
Within its borders, as within ours, is both majestic beauty and base squalor, selfless service and unthinkable cruelty, high aspirations and backward superstition.
My new friend affirmed the good in Nepal; I confronted the evil. We need to do both.
At times we have used our newsletters to bring attention to mistreatment of Christians, but this newsletter is devoted to the non-Christians where we work who have taken courageous stands for what is right.
I remember the moderate Muslims who took to the streets of Pakistan to protest the assassination of an outspoken advocate for religious freedom.
I remember the Hindu, Muslim, Buddhist, and Christian teachers at a Christian school run by our partners at the India-Bhutan border, who demonstrate that coexistence and cooperation in the goal of educating a generation is possible.
I remember the Muslim university president in Bangladesh who reminded the student body that the university had been repaired by World Vision with money given by Christians out of love, and demanded that students treat all Christian students (there was only one) with respect.
I remember partners of other religions and of no religion who worked alongside us to alleviate suffering caused by earthquakes and other natural disasters.
And I give thanks for these people and others like them who disagree about incredibly important issues, and yet respect one another and work together for the common good.
Harvest Bridge is an unapologetically Christian organization, and we stand by the tiny Christian minority in South Asia. But we also stand by other minorities who are mistreated – gypsies, Dalits, tribal people, and yes, adherents of other religions who are treated unfairly.
The Jesus we serve taught us to love others, even those who oppose us. There is no contradiction between strong faith and goodwill toward those who disagree.
So, this Thanksgiving, as I give thanks for all the people who make Harvest Bridge work – our unbelievable partners in Asia, my incredible coworkers, and the volunteers who edit over 500 pages of missionary reports per year, handle our accounting, process our donations, send out mailings, and much more – I am also thankful for the goodwill, decency, and courage of the many people who do not share our religion but have offered us their welcome, their respect, and, sometimes, even their love.
Have a joyous Thanksgiving,