Explaining why and how they live their beliefs


In any religious community, there will be people who devote much of their time and energy to learning about their faith. There will be those who dedicate some time to it. And there will be those who, while sincerely committed to their religion, mostly have their minds on other things. In any political movement, some people are leaders. Some are active members who make its cause a priority. Some are supporters who give it what time they have left over. And others are simply well-wishers. When religious or political groups are persecuted, at times only the most visible or the most dedicated are targeted. But other times, each of these kinds of people may be in danger.

Gary sometimes assumes that every religious or politically motivated person is a devoted pupil who has studied their belief system in depth. He asks questions to test how much they know about it, and when he discovers that they do not know very much, he will think that he has discovered a lie.

Claimants have sometimes been able to help Gary to see that they are committed to their beliefs by helping him to understand more about how their faith or their political ideology fits into their daily lives. Understanding more about a claimant’s own experience of their religion or ideology has helped Gary to gauge better how much he can expect them to know about it.

Huan goes to church every week and says a prayer every night. He enjoys church as a place to meet people and he is comforted by the pastor’s talk of love and peace. When the pastor reads from the Bible, Huan lets the words wash over him. He has never read the Bible himself. He does not think that he needs to because he has put himself in the pastor’s hands, and the pastor’s words are much easier to understand. If Gary had understood better how Huan is living his faith, he might not have expected him to know Bible passages.

Sunny became involved in the party because he was very angry at the corruption and injustice that he saw around him. He encouraged his friends to join because he knew that they were angry too, and because they all liked spending time together. Going to rallies felt like rooting for his home football team. He wore his party’s colours and afterwards he was often hoarse from cheering the people who were making speeches. Half the time he could not hear clearly what they were saying, but it did not matter. They were on his side. If Gary had understood better why Sunny’s political party was important to him, he might not have expected him to know as much about its platform.