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.