The persistent march of terrorists and tyrants around the globe gives us reason to reflect on the precious gift of freedom we have been given and must continue to safeguard.

In signing the Declaration of Independence, 238 years ago, our Founding Fathers defied an intolerable King and proclaimed a God-given right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Those men signified to the world that, although they yearned for peace, they would not submit to despots. Their demand for liberty offered no compromise.

As Thomas Jefferson later wrote, the Declaration was “an expression of the American mind”—one that refuses to accept insufferable evil, abuses, and usurpations and holds the freedom of its people supreme.

This is the spirit America was founded upon.

This is the heritage we all share.

This is what makes us Americans.

Much time has passed, but many of the challenges our forefathers faced have not changed. One doesn’t have to look very far on the world map to find nations where people suffer under brutal oppressors.

“Terrorism” is an often-used word because the maiming and killing of innocents is so frequent. Suicide bombings, IEDs, mass killings, kidnappings, and hijackings are tools of their trade.

Hamas recently kidnapped and murdered three Jewish teenagers who were waiting for a bus to get home from school. They committed no wrong; they were targeted, forcibly taken, and shot.

Hundreds of girls remain missing in Nigeria, kidnapped by the Islamic terrorist group Boko Haram.

We remember when Taliban forces shot Malala Yousafzai, a Pakistani teenager because she was campaigning for girls’ education. Courageously, she continues to advocate for it today.

We remember watching Neda Agha-Solten perish on the streets of Tehran during anti-government protests from a gunshot wound to the chest.

We remember when the Syrian government gassed hundreds of beautiful, faultless, cherished children in their sleep last year, shocking the conscience of people around the world.

And, there are countless others whose stories have not been told.

Most of us, because we are Americans, will never have to suffer as these people and their families have. Thank God for the blessing of being an American and those who have fought and continue to fight to keep us free.

And, remember, those Americans who are trapped, at this moment, in dark corners of the world.

Pastor Saeed Abedini, an American citizen, has been brutalized and remains imprisoned in Iran for merely sharing his Christian faith. Another American citizen, Kenneth Bae, is imprisoned in North Korea for also sharing his Christian faith. And, Meriam Ibrahim, a young mother who was forced to give birth with her legs in irons because she would not renounce her Christian faith, was kept in a Sudanese prison with her two small American children. Due to international outcry over their plight, they are finally out of jail, but are still waiting to experience real freedom in America.

We should never take our rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness for granted. Too much of the world does not recognize them. We must still hold these truths.

Just as those brave men did 238 years did ago, let us affirm our commitment to a government defined by consent of the people—a transformative concept that launched America into becoming the greatest force for freedom the world has ever seen.

On this Fourth of July raise up your American flags high and wave them proudly. The spirit of our star-spangled banner makes us who we are. That spirit keeps us strong, safe, and free.