06/30/2005, 00.00
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2004 statistics for religious freedom in Asia

Aid to Church in Need presents its annual report on freedom of worship across the world. In Asia, the situation is critical in Iraq, China, Pakistan, India and North Korea. Martino: freedom of worship is the source and synthesis of all other freedoms.

Roma (AsiaNews) – "Freedom of worship, the source and synthesis of all other freedoms". This was the thrust of the speech of Cardinal Renato R. Martino – taking his queue from John Paul II – at the Rome presentation of the 2005 report on religious freedom in the world, realised by the Italian section of Aid to the Church in Need* (ACN). The cardinal, president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, today recalled the Church position summed up in the Council Declaration Dignitatis humanae (1965), which states that men "are morally obliged to search for truth, in the first place that concerning religion".

Attilio Tamburini, director of ANS-Italy harped on "the freedom of worship as an integral part of natural right", saying the uniqueness of this publication consisted in "the fact that a Catholic association is concerned about the situation of believers of other faiths too".

The 2005 report of ACN offers a scenario of each and every state based on direct sources of information, testimonies, official documents, local press and news supplied by human rights organisations. AsiaNews contributed to drawing up the section dedicated to the Asian continent, where religious communities – both minorities and otherwise – continued to face critical situations in several countries throughout 2004.

Great turmoil marked the Caucasus, where governments often tackled the threat posed by terrorism of Islamic background by using repressive means instead of resorting to strategies capable of isolating fundamentalism. In other states, persecution of "infidels" is reaching crisis proportions, as in Iran, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, which allow for imprisonment and torture for those who go against the laws of the Koran. In these three countries, violent clashes between Muslims of different religious and sometimes even political orientation are the order the day. From this viewpoint, the situation in Iraq is worrying, shaken as it is by Sunni terrorist attacks against Shi'ites and by threats, often made good, against Christian communities. Christian minorities are targeted by extremist Buddhists in Sri Lanka and by Hindus in India, who use anti-conversion laws to prevent any kind of missionary activity, often resorting to violence. Isolated North Korea, throughout the past 50 years, has seen the disappearance of around 300,000 Christians. Comparable is the repressive policy practiced by the Beijing government against Christians, Buddhists and members of the Falun Gong, who are interned and tortured in detention camps without charge and often winning release only through their death.

* Aid to the Church in Need is a work of Pontifical Right set up in 1947 by Fr Werenfried van Straaten, a Dutch Norbertine priest. It is the most important organization for aid to the persecuted Church and it undertakes some 6,000 interventions every year, including of an ecumenical nature, to help the evangelical work of the Church. ACN is also a watchdog of freedom of worship around the world. A report on the condition of religious freedom is published every year. The international website of ACN is www.kirche-in-not.org

In Italian, it is www.acs-italia.org  

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“L’Asia: ecco il nostro comune compito per il terzo millennio!” - Giovanni Paolo II, da “Alzatevi, andiamo”