Cardinal Ayuso: religious freedom guarantees peace
By Lisa Zengarini, Vatican News
The Prefect of the Dicastery for Interreligious Dialogue sends a message to the International Ministerial Conference on Freedom of Religion and Belief (FoRB) hosted by the British Government in London.
Religious freedom matters especially in today’s world, as religions contribute significantly to building fraternity and defending justice and peace, the Prefect of the Dicastery for Interreligious Dialogue, Cardinal Miguel Ángel Ayuso Guixot, told a two-day International Ministerial Conference on Freedom of Religion and Belief (FoRB) gathered in London on Tuesday.
Church constantly advocating for religious freedom
In a message addressed to the participants, the Vatican representative recalled that since the publication of the document “Dignitatis Humanae” on Religious Freedom, during the Second Vatican Council, the Catholic Church has been constantly advocating for “the freedom of individuals and the respect owed to religious communities”, and subsequently encouraging and actively contributing to interreligious dialogue.
He noted that Vatican II also affirmed that in the area of religion and faith, “which deals with the ultimate purpose and goal of our lives”, states are not to unduly interfere, whether to force or prohibit the free exercise of conscience.
“Because humans are inherently social, they cannot be prohibited, without violation, from externally expressing their religious or faith beliefs, as long as such expression honors the common good.”
Cardinal Ayuso hailed the fact that many secular institutions have recognized these principles now enshrined in a number of international declarations and conventions, offering a set of legal provisions which “if implemented with intelligence and courage”, he said, “can effectively protect the freedom of religion or belief of individuals and communities, including minority religious communities that are the most exposed to acts of intolerance and persecution”.
Extremism fulled by loss of religious identity
The Prefect of the Dicastery for Interreligious Dialogue further remarked that “extremism and fundamentalism find fertile soil not only in the exploitation of religion for purposes of power, but also in the vacuum of ideals and the loss of identity which dramatically affect many societies, especially those that are, in material terms, ‘developed’. “This vacuum of meaning – he noted – easily gives rise to fear which leads to seeing the other as a threat and an enemy”.
Pope Francis’ prophetic words
In this regard, Cardinal Ayuso highlighted that Pope Francis, in partnership with many religious leaders and people of goodwill, has “prophetically offered the path of human fraternity as the way forward”. He referred, in particular, to the 2019 Document on Human Fraternity for World Peace and Living Together and the Encyclical Letter Fratelli Tutti in which Pope Francis affirms that “the different religions, based on their respect for each human person as a creature called to be a child of God, contribute significantly to building fraternity and defending justice in society”.
“The 2019 Document on Human Fraternity for World Peace and Living Together, followed by his Encyclical Letter Fratelli Tutti, gives us solid ground for seeing humanity as one family, and all people as brothers and sisters, with respect for mutual differences and convictions of conscience. ”
Likewise – Cardinal Ayuso concluded – the dialogue with States and their supporting institutions “can lead to greater understanding and commitments to collaborate for peace and authentic development, including spiritual development”.
Participants in the Conference
The London 2022 International Ministerial Conference on Freedom of Religion or Belief (FoRB) is hosted by the UK Government building on the previous Ministerial-level conferences held on this issue by the United States in 2018 and 2019, and, in virtual format, by Poland in 2020.
A host of Ministers, Parliamentarians, faith leaders and members of civil society from several countries are taking part in the event, which also brings together members of the International Religious Freedom or Belief Alliance (IRFBA), a coalition of 36 countries founded in 2020 to agree on coordinated actions to protect people worldwide who are persecuted or discriminated against on account of their religion or belief.
Addressing challenges to freedom of religion
As the severity and scale of violations and abuses of freedom of religion and belief continue to rise across the world the event is aimed at raising awareness on the current challenges to this fundamental human right, its relevance to other human rights, and on best practices in preventing violations and protecting it.
The Conference wants to galvanise partner countries and stakeholders, as well as human rights experts, civil society, academia and faith groups, to act together through exchanging best practices , building shared commitments, using UK experience in addressing human rights issues.
The gathering will also seek to strengthen the voices of and build the capacity of defenders of freedom of religion, including faith-based organizations, and it aims to inspire future leaders and young people, and build and reinforce global coalitions for collective action.
As well as discussing challenges, the Conference will, therefore, identify what is working in different countries; explore where and how to apply new lessons and approaches; and inspire the next generation to champion and defend freedom of religion or belief across the world.
A series of civil society side events coordinated by the UK Freedom of Religion or Belief Forum, a group of over 70 civil society groups, faith or belief organisations and human rights Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs), will enable more people to get involved in discussions on this issue.