Today I met a woman who was in prison, off and on, for more than 23 years and now lives in exile. In order to avoid arrest, another woman traveled for 15 days just to be able to take part in the conference I am attending. The trip would normally have taken no more than 15 hours. Many of the participants have been in prison and/or tortured.
The reason for all of this? Because they belong to, and peacefully practice, religions that are not sanctioned by the government of the countries in which they live. The government cracks down on unsanctioned religious activity deeming it “a danger to the security of the state.”
When talking to these people I had the impression that they didn’t look at what they had been through as hardship, but rather as an unfortunate consequence of choosing to remain in their faith. Each and every one expressed gratitude and joy at being able to participate in the conference. They took comfort from being able to share their experiences and hear of similar experiences from others. There is a sense of shared burdens, which become half burdens, and shared joys, which become twice the joy.
The aim of the conference is to share knowledge and build connections between people; activists and adherents of religious communities (including those who have no belief whatsoever) from all the ASEAN countries. For more on the conference click here: http://seaforb.wix.com/seaforbconference