Worldwide, the right of an individual to convert to another religion is under assault in dangerous and unprecedented ways.

In India, Hindu nationalists accused Christians of forcing the rural poor to become Christians. Prime Minister Vajpayee, a moderate Hindu nationalist, called for public dialogue on religious conversion. Yet, instead of talking, Hindu fundamentalists are engaged in one of the worst outbreaks of violence against Christians in India's modern history (see "The Fiery Rise of Hindu Fundamentalism," p. 46).

But the issue of religious conversion is not confined to one region of the globe. In Israel, Jewish emigres who openly affirm Jesus as their Messiah are considered Christian converts and thereby may lose their citizenship rights, while ultra-Orthodox Jewish extremists single out Messianic Jews for harassment and intimidation. In Egypt, a Muslim who accepts Christianity is prevented from legally changing his official identity papers. In Eastern Europe and Russia, Orthodox clergy frequently use their influence with local government officials to interfere with evangelistic outreach by Protestants. In Mexico City in January, Pope John Paul II, in a veiled reference to the rapid growth of charismatic and Protestant congregations, urged Catholics to confront "the challenge of the sects."

Meanwhile, in Chile, evangelicals are working for passage of a Worship Law that would remove preferences for the Roman Catholic church. But the measure would also grant Mormons and Jehovah's Witnesses equal rights under Chilean law, causing some evangelicals to oppose it.

Evangelicals who embrace the right of an individual to religious conversion must resist any attempt to use government to give themselves special privileges. Whenever ...

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