Daily Archives: July 21, 2010

Vatican announces that 2011 “World Day of Peace” will be dedicated to Religious Freedom

Here is the full announcement from VIS with my emphases and [my comments]:

RELIGIOUS FREEDOM, THE PATH TO PEACE

VATICAN CITY, 13 JUL 2010 (VIS) – “Religious freedom, the path to peace” is the theme chosen by Pope Benedict XVI for the celebration of the 2011 World Day of Peace.

“The World Day of Peace”, reads a communique on the subject released today, “will therefore be dedicated to the theme of religious freedom. It is well known that in many parts of the world there are various forms of restriction or denial of religious freedom, from discrimination and marginalisation based on religion, to acts of violence against religious minorities”. [note that denial of religious freedom begins with “discrimination and marginalisation” on the basis of religious identity.]

“Religious freedom is authentically realised when it is experienced as the coherent search for truth and for the truth about man. [one of these truths is that the religious impulse belongs to man’s nature] This approach to religious freedom offers us a fundamental criterion for discerning the phenomenon of religion and its expressions. It necessarily rejects the ‘religiosity’ of fundamentalism, and the manipulation of truth and of the truth about man. Since such distortions are opposed to the dignity of man and to the search for truth, they cannot be considered as religious freedom”.

The communique recalls words Benedict XVI’s pronounced before the United Nations General Assembly in 2008: “Human rights, of course, must include the right to religious freedom, understood as the expression of a dimension that is at once individual and communitarian [ie. we are not just talking about private or individual freedom of expression of religious identity] – a vision that brings out the unity of the person while clearly distinguishing between the dimension of the citizen and that of the believer”.

The text continues: “Today there are many areas of the world in which forms of restrictions and limitations to religious freedom persist, both where communities of believers are a minority, and where communities of believers are not a minority, and where more sophisticated forms of discrimination and marginalisation exist, on the cultural level and in the spheres of public, civil and political activity. ‘It is inconceivable’, as Benedict XVI remarked, ‘that believers should have to suppress a part of themselves – their faith – in order to be active citizens. It should never be necessary to deny God in order to enjoy one’s rights. The rights associated with religion are all the more in need of protection if they are considered to clash with a prevailing secular ideology or with majority religious positions of an exclusive nature‘”. [That is a very good point: the exercise of religious positions “of an exclusive nature” can have the effect of limiting the right to freedom of religion.]

The communique concludes by highlighting how “man cannot be fragmented, and separated from what he believes, because that in which he believes has an impact on his life and on his person. ‘Refusal to recognise the contribution to society that is rooted in the religious dimension and in the quest for the Absolute – by its nature, expressing communion between persons – would effectively privilege an individualistic approach, and would fragment the unity of the person’. It is for this reason that: ‘Religious Freedom is the Path to Peace'”.

The interesting thing to note is that highlighting the right to freedom of religion cuts two ways:

1) The Pope is defending the right of Catholics to this freedom
2) This right of religious freedom extends to ALL religious people, whatever their creed.

This right does not extend, however, to “the ‘religiosity’ of fundamentalism, and the manipulation of truth and of the truth about man”. It is on this basis that the Holy Father identifies the two greatest threats to religious freedom today:

1) a prevailing secular ideology
2) majority religious positions of an exclusive nature

That ought to be enough to keep us going in the combox for a while… 🙂

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