03/30/2007, 00.00
VATICAN
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For Holy See religious freedom as a fundamental human right is still abused and violated

Speaking before the UN Human Rights Council, Vatican representative asserts that respect for human rights and religion entails freedom to profess and freely manifest one’s religion, especially in the case of religious minorities.

Vatican City (AsiaNews) –  Religion cannot be “tolerated on the base of cultural, ethnic, political circumstances, that could change or even turn into forms of coercion” but must “recognized as a fundamental human right inherent in every human person,” said Mgr Silvano M. Tomasi, Holy See permanent observer to the United Nations in Geneva. He asserted these fundamental notions about respect for religions and religious freedom on March 22 at the 4th session of the Human Rights Council.

The Vatican envoy stressed that the debate cannot be limited to issues relating to religious tolerance or questions about defaming religions as suggested by other speakers, but must focus on asserting the right to religious freedom.

“A really democratic state values religious freedom as a fundamental element of the common good, worthy of respect and protection, and creates the conditions that allow its citizens to live and act freely.”

Unfortunately, Mgr Tomasi noted, the “rights of believers” continue to be abused, including “even outright violence against them, state restrictions, undue impositions and persecution, public insult to religious feelings.”

“The Holy See Delegation,” he said, “observes with preoccupation the emergence of an apparent dilemma between respect due to religions and the right to religious freedom as if they were incompatible and mutually exclusive aspects. On the contrary, they are complementary values that cannot stand one without the other.

In asserting that “[r]eligions can offer, and in fact do offer, a solid foundation for the defence of the values of personal and social justice, for respect of others and of nature,” the Vatican representative insisted that “any religion that preaches or condones violence, intolerance and hatred renders itself unworthy of the name.”

And yet it is also unacceptable that criticism against people who perpetrate violence in name of their religion be extended to the faith itself.

Hence, Mgr Tomasi explained, “[r]espect for the human person and his or her dignity implies respect of his freedom in religious matters to profess, practice and publicly manifest one’s religion without being mocked, injured, discriminated against. Respect of religion means respect of those who have chosen to follow it and practice it in a free and pacific way, in private and in public, individually or collectively. Offence to a religion, especially when it is that of a minority, brings about some coercion against its followers that will make it more difficult to profess, practice and manifest this religion in public.

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