Draft Afghan Constitution Does Not Address Religious Freedom

Superior of Mission Analyzes Proposed Text

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KABUL, Afghanistan, NOV. 20, 2003 (Zenit.org).- The draft Afghan Constitution establishes Islam as the state religion and makes no reference to freedom of worship for other confessions.

This is reflected in Article 2, which has caused wide public debate. The document, which faces a vote in Parliament next month, shows that religious freedom in the new Afghanistan will not be very different from the past.

«It is necessary to see what is understood by freedom of worship and if the interpretation of that article will be restrictive or if the authorities will permit, for example, the construction of a church outside an embassy,» Italian Father Giuseppe Moretti, superior of the mission «sui iuris» (in its own right) in Afghanistan, told the Vatican agency Fides.

Father Moretti added that «in the draft Constitution, freedom of worship is conceived in relation to what the Shariah [Islamic law] establishes; therefore, it does not admit the possibility to evangelize or to engage in conversations.»

Observers and experts who have analyzed the draft state that it has a markedly Islamic connotation. In fact, the date on the cover, «year 1382,» follows the Islamic calendar, adopted officially by the state, as Article 18 establishes.

Moreover, the draft highlights the duty of the state to institute and organize mosques and Islamic religious centers.

Article 35 stipulates that the social and political organization, political parties and associations that Afghan citizens are «free to create,» must be constituted in keeping with the principles of Islam.

These dispositions are in contrast to other points of the Constitution which affirm that the state has the duty to respect and protect the freedom and dignity of every human being (Article 22), and to create «a society based on social justice, the protection of human rights, the establishment of democracy, and the ensuring of national unity and the equality of all ethnic groups» (Article 6).

However, there is hope as regards the construction of the new Afghanistan and relations with Muslim religious leaders, Father Moretti said.

«Relations have yet to be built, but some Muslim leaders have already shown sympathy for interreligious dialogue, in particular, Mullah Fazul Shinwari, head of the Afghan Supreme Court, appointed Minister of Justice, who attended the inauguration of the ‘sui iuris’ mission, and has expressed his desire to meet with the Holy Father,» the priest added.

Nevertheless, Shinwari is known by international public opinion for his public statements in favor of establishing the Shariah as the fundamental law of the state.

The mission was established officially on Aug. 6. It is the first circumscription established by the Catholic Church in Afghanistan in the post-Taliban era.

Father Moretti, a Barnabite, was named the mission’s superior. The Barnabites have been in the country since 1933.

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