Religious Freedom as a Bellwether

Interview With an Official of «Aid to the Church in Need»

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ROME, DEC. 24, 2004 ( If religious freedom is not respected, it is more than likely that other human rights are not respected either, says an official of Aid to the Church in Need.

Attilio Tamburini, president of the Italian section of the international charity, reflected on the subject of religious freedom, in this interview with ZENIT. Religious freedom was the focus of an international conference Tamburini addressed Dec. 3. The conference was organized by the U.S. Embassy to the Holy See.

Q: How does the lack of religious freedom relate to the lack of other human rights?

Tamburini: In his address to the diplomatic corps in 1989, the Holy Father significantly altered the way in which to address the issue of religious freedom, especially in regard to methodology. He said that religious freedom is like a test which enables us to verify respect for other human rights.

We start from this consideration: Religious freedom is not an accessory. If a country passes or fails the test of religious freedom, its position will reflect its respect for the other rights.

Suffice it to look at history to see the truth of this statement. Throughout the 20th century, ideologies of both the right and left tried to oppose religious freedom.

Q: There are those who believe that in today’s secularized world, measures are approved in the name of religious tolerance and the principle of state secularity that limit, in fact, the freedom of the different religions, especially the Christian. What is your opinion in this respect?

Tamburini: In this case also, the Holy Father was taken seriously when he said that a democracy without values results in totalitarianism. It seems to be a phrase coined to call attention, but it has an intrinsic reason, because obligatory relativism results in totalitarianism.

Moral relativism and weak thought are opposed to strong thought and the search for values, identity and truth. Ghosts are fanned and special norms are proposed for concrete social categories, when in fact human rights are for all human beings as such.

If a homosexual is beaten, the one who has beaten him must be condemned, regardless of the victim’s sexual preference. But it is also dangerous to accept division by categories. There cannot be more or less rights, according to sexual preferences.

Q: What do you think about the controversy caused by Nativity scenes in schools, judged to be offensive to other religions?

Tamburini: Interreligious dialogue implies recognition of identities. Without identity, there is no dialogue. A Muslim can dialogue with me if I declare myself Christian. Otherwise, why would he want to engage in dialogue?

If identity is canceled, the basis of dialogue is annulled. I regard as aberrant what happened in Campania [Naples], where the regional junta published a Peace Agenda that does not include the dates of Christmas, Epiphany and Easter.

Instead, the Agenda includes the dates of Mohammed’s departure from Mecca, the Chinese New Year, and Gandhi’s and Mandela’s birthdays, but no mention is made of Jesus. The Agenda cost 50,000 euros of public funds and has been distributed in schools.

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