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    » 12/01/2010, 00.00


    Card Bertone calls for an end to anti-Christian persecution

    The Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe discusses its future and goals today and tomorrow. The Vatican secretary of state complains about the persecution and difficulties 200 million Christians face in the world. Hillary Clinton calls for the protection of press freedom.

    Astana (AsiaNews/Agencies) – The Vatican Secretary of State Card Tarcisio Bertone called for an end to discrimination against Christians in his speech to the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE). “Society must fight anti-Christian discrimination with the same determination that it fights anti-Semitism and Islamophobia,” said Benedict XVI’s right-hand man. “The progress attested in the various OSCE documents indicates that religious freedom can exist under various social systems. Religious intolerance and discrimination, against Christians for example, are closely correlated with the lack of religious freedom,” the secretary said. “Christians are the most persecuted group; more than 200 million Christians are living in difficult situations.”

    Card Bertone began his address citing Kazakh poet Abay Qunanbayuli, for whom love and friendship are the beginning of humanity. He then called for greater efforts to stop conflicts that, although they might localised, threaten the whole OSCE area.

    The cardinal also touched upon the current economic crisis, which has shown the importance of ethical principles in the economy. Given the situation, “The Holy See calls for policies in favour of the family.”

    Water is another issue that deserves attention. “Every human being should be guaranteed adequate access to quality water,” the secretary of state said.

    At the same time, “the rights of migrants and their families” must be defended. “Pope John Paul II said that the Helsinki Declaration was an act of hope for millions of Europeans and non Europeans. I hope and call on God almighty that the Astana meeting may be an act of hope for our generation and for generations to come,” Card Bertone said as he brought his speech to a close.

    The Helsinki Declaration acknowledged the principle of religious freedom in the countries of Eastern Europe at a time when they were under Communist rule. The Catholic Church used it to defend the rights of its members behind the Iron Curtain.

    The future and goals of the organisation are also under discussion at the summit. In her address, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said that respect for human rights and press freedom are priorities in the world at a time when democracy is under pressure. “It is not enough for a constitution to guarantee freedom of the press if, in reality, journalists are put under intense pressure and even assaulted," she said.

    On Afghanistan, Clinton said the OSCE can play an important role to improve border security, counter illicit trafficking, boost legitimate trade, promote economic development and help develop national institutions.

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    See also

    08/01/2010 KAZAKHSTAN
    Kazakhstan launches into intense diplomatic activity as it begins its stint at the helm of OCSE
    The former Soviet republic took over the OCSE presidency on 1 January. Human rights groups criticise the decision because the Central Asian nation does not adequately respect human rights and religious freedom. For its part, Astana wants to focus on former Soviet republics and economic issues.

    27/11/2008 KAZAKHSTAN
    Kazakh parliament passes law that severely restricts religious freedom
    All unauthorised religious activity is banned, even meeting to pray or do charity work. Offenders will be severely punished. OCSE, which had asked for further consultation, expresses its “disappointment”. Representatives of various religious groups express their views and concerns about the law.

    29/07/2009 KYRGYZSTAN
    President Bakiyev’s re-election flawed and rigged, OSCE says
    OSCE monitors blast irregularities during the election campaign, complain about fraud. Opposition takes to the streets but police prevent people from demonstrating.

    16/10/2006 VATICAN
    Religions can play a fundamental role in avoiding any clash of civilisations, says Vatican
    In addressing the OSCE annual meeting, the representative of the Holy See calls for a greater commitment to the fight against "prejudice, intolerance and discrimination against Christians and members of other religions". "Sentiments of hatred and vengeance have been inculcated in numerous young people in those parts of the world marked by conflicts".

    04/07/2007 TAJIKISTAN
    Draft law to ban religious minorities
    The Tajik parliament is discussing a bill which would deny children younger than seven the right to a religious education and ban religious education in the home. Only religious groups with more than 400 members in each of the country’s districts could register, effectively excluding Christians who are just a few thousands.

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