Vatican Laments Rise in Religious Extremism — and Nonbelief

Archbishop Martino Addresses U.N. on Rights and Liberty

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NEW YORK, NOV. 15, 2001 (Zenit.org).- The Vatican is profoundly concerned about religious liberty in the world, especially in the case of religious minorities living in a country with a different state religion.

Archbishop Renato Martino, the Vatican´s permanent observer at the United Nations, expressed this concern Tuesday to the General Assembly session addressing the topic «Human Rights Questions — Religious Tolerance.»

The archbishop analyzed the report of the special rapporteur of the Commission on Human Rights on Freedom of Religion or Belief, which was presented to the assembly.

«Of serious concern to my delegation is the information contained in the report, which reveals the maintenance, in many parts of the world, of discriminatory or intolerant policies with regard to minorities in states having an official religion,» Archbishop Martino said.

The Vatican aide referred to «the increase in extremism affecting all religions; and the gradual shift toward nonbelief within society, characterized by a growing militancy that enters into competition or conflict with religions.»

«The right to life and the right to freedom of religion or belief are the basic premises for human existence,» the archbishop added. «The fact that there are still many places today where the right to gather for worship is either not recognized or is limited to the members of one religion alone, is a sad commentary.»

The papal representative emphasized that he was not just defending the religious liberty of Catholics or Christians in general, but of all believers.

«It is a direct and serious contradiction to Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which states clearly that ´everyone has the right to freedom of religion, including the freedom to change his or her religion or belief,´» he said.

Moreover, «recourse to violence in the name of religious belief is a perversion of the very teachings of the major religions,» the archbishop continued. «The Holy See reaffirms here today what many religious leaders have repeated so often: ´The use of violence can never claim a religious justification, nor can it foster the growth of true religious feeling.´»

«While no one can ever deny that there are important differences between religious traditions, these differences should be accepted with humility and respect, in mutual tolerance,» he said.

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