VIENNA, Austria, SEPT. 16, 2005 (Zenit.org).- Despite efforts on the part of governments, a number of unacceptable violations of religious freedom still exist in Europe, says a Vatican representative.
Antonio Gaspari, representing the Vatican, made these comments at the 2nd Meeting of Police Experts organized by the Organization for Security and Cooperation (OSCE) Sept. 12-13 in Vienna.
Delegations from the 55 member states attended the meeting, and analyzed the phenomena of anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, Christianophobia, intolerance and violence against gypsy ethnic groups and the more vulnerable sectors of the population, such as the sick, the poor and the disabled.
Intolerance, discrimination, musicals and books marked by the culture of hatred against Christianity and other religions — all create an atmosphere that often degenerates into violent actions against believers, communities, places of worship and cemeteries, said Gaspari.
The Vatican delegate applauded the OSCE’s protection and promotion of religious freedom, as well as the organization’s “specific attention to intolerance and discrimination against Christians and members of other religions.”
The speaker recalled that the Holy See never tires of raising its voice “against discriminations, whether racial, ethnic, linguistic or religious.”
But, “in spite of the OSCE’s efforts to protect and foster human rights, in some of its participating states there are still norms, decisions or practices which prevent — or at least hamper — the free exercise of such rights, harming Churches and Christian communities as well as other religious communities,” Gaspari said.
The representative of the Holy See said that it is “necessary to verify that local laws and rules be in line with international standards that those countries agreed upon,” and that countermeasures be taken “against violations of such standards.”
He lamented the persistence of “illegitimate restrictions against registration of Churches, Christian communities or other religions,” “unjustified delays, or even refusals to return properties which had previously been confiscated or destined to others than the regular owners.”
The Vatican representative also decried “illegitimate interference in the organizational autonomy of religious communities, as they are prevented from operating in accord with their moral convictions.”
“When one religion is the majority religion in a country, juridical legitimacy is often refused to minority Churches or communities; their own internal activity is subject to limitation and they suffer injustices perpetrated by public authorities,” Gaspari said.
He said that to this are added “episodes of violence, either physical or psychological, against some Christians or members of other religions, while their places of worship are damaged or destroyed.”
“Even the mass media sometimes shows intolerant attitudes, and it is not infrequent to witness the denigration of Christians and members of other religions,” he said.
Gaspari added: “Real pluralism in the world of mass media requires, on the contrary, that correct information be given about religious facts, that religious communities have access to the mass media and that no hate speech be admitted either against Christians or against members of other religions.”
The Vatican representative recommended that “effective measures be adopted to ensure compliance with international standards, in order to prevent and combat manipulation of messages from religious communities as well as the disrespectful presentation of their members.”