This essay introduces readers to the essays in the volume and its cross cutting themes and topics, including the histories and genealogies of the concept of religious freedom, the difficulties of locating and defining religion, and the interrelationship of law and religion. Examples from Pakistan and Myanmar illustrate the challenges of religious freedom advocacy today. The deployments of religious freedom are multiple and contradictory, at times used to identify the virtuous and condemn the oppressor, other times on behalf of women and minorities, and sometimes to serve narrow sectarian interests of missionaries, governments, and religious authorities. There are significant and not yet fully explored connections between religious freedom advocacy, economic liberalization, and the “free market” model of religious growth.
Keywords: religion, religious freedom, politics and religion, law and religion, human rights advocacy, Myanmar, Pakistan