Religious freedom in Iran is a fundamental human right, Pope says
Vatican City (AsiaNews) On receiving the letters of accreditation of Iran's new Ambassador to the Holy See, Mohammad Javad Faridzadeh, Pope John Paul II said that freedom of religion was a "fundamental" right and that the fight against terrorism needed the commitment of the world's governments to a stronger United Nations in order to achieve a more "balanced international order".
The Pontiff reminded the Iranian diplomat of the necessity of respecting international accords giving as an example the non proliferation treaty. Currently, Iran is at odds with the UN's International Atomic Energy Agency over its own nuclear programme.
Speaking about Iran's Catholics and other Christians, the Pope called for the "respect of their right to freely profess their religion" and for "grant[ing] Church institutions the status of legal entities thus facilitating their work in Iranian society." He also said that "freedom of worship was but one aspect of religious freedom which must be the same for all citizens."
In the face "of terrorism that seeks to impose its law", an "international situation that is deteriorating" and the "threats that hang over humanity", any attempt to achieve a more balanced international order and build a peaceful future for all can only be done if all states make a commitment to stable, efficient and accepted institutional arrangements such as those of the United Nations and other international organisations.
For the Pope, "such a commitment towards peace means taking a courageous stance against terrorism and building a world in which all are seen as children of the same All Mighty and Merciful God."
Quoting from the message from the 2002 World Peace Day, the Holy Father singled out the role religion can play in this fight. "The various Christian denominations as well as all the great religions of humanity," he stressed, "must cooperate to remove the social and cultural factors that lead to terrorism. They should teach about the greatness and dignity of man and make people more aware that we are all part of a single human kind".
"Of course," he said, "peace-building implies mutual trust and acceptance. Others must not be seen as threats but as partners. Everyone must accept the obligations and controls that shared commitments require. This is true, for instance, in the case of international treaties and multilateral accords in areas that concern the common good such as the environment, arms trade, nuclear non proliferation as well as child and minority protection."
Speaking about relations among believers, John Paul II said that dialogue among people "is necessary in order to establish ties of fraternity and love". This must be done in "response to the dialogue that God initiated with man when he revealed His Word and proposed His Alliance".
"Our duty as believers," the Pope said, "is to announce to our contemporaries the fundamental values of religion. By virtue of natural law God left his mark on man and in doing so he enabled such values to give every person dignity and allowed us to manage our relations with our fellow human beings."
"As I said many times before," the Pope insisted, "Catholics must bear witness in favour of a culture of life, one that respects human life from conception till natural death and protects man's inalienable rights and duties. Among these rights, religious freedom stands out as an essential part of freedom of conscience and so reveals the transcendental nature of the human person."
"The Holy See is counting on Iranian authorities to give Catholics in Iran as well as other Christians the right to rely profess their faith and grant Church institutions the status of legal entities thus facilitating their work in Iranian society."
"Freedom of worship," he reiterated, "is but one aspect of religious freedom which must be the same for all citizens." (FP)