NEW YORK, OCT. 27, 2009 (Zenit.org).- Before there can be authentic religious freedom, there must be a change of hearts regarding tolerance and respect toward other religions and cultures, says the Holy See.
Archbishop Celestino Migliore, permanent observer of the Holy See at the United Nations, spoke Monday on religious freedom in an address he delivered Monday before the 64th session of the U.N. General Assembly.
The archbishop began by acknowledging that the United Nations has worked to promote and protect “human rights and fundamental freedoms, cultural diversity, and the elimination of all forms of religious intolerance in the world.”
Despite the promotion of the right to religious freedom, he continued, the right to freedom of religious expression “continues to be widely violated today.”
“There is unfortunately no religion on the planet which is free from discrimination,” the Holy See representative lamented. “Acts of intolerance, and violations of religious freedom, continue to be perpetrated in many forms.”
Archbishop Migliore noted that discrimination can take the form of “legal and cultural structures that lead to their discrimination,” or to acts of violence or vandalism.
“Over the past months some Asian and Middle Eastern countries have seen Christian communities attacked, leaving many injured and others killed,” he noted. “Their churches and homes were also burned down. Such actions were committed by extremists in response to accusations against individuals, perceived — according to anti-blasphemy laws — as being in some way disrespectful of the beliefs of others.”
“Blasphemy laws have too easily become opportunities for extremists to persecute those who freely choose to follow the belief system of a different faith tradition,” the archbishop added. “Such laws have been used to foster injustice, sectarian violence and violence between religions.
“Governments must address the root causes of religious intolerance and repeal such laws that serve as instruments of abuse.”
In addition to changes in the law, Archbishop Migliore urged an attitude change: “Legislation which restricts freedom of expression cannot change attitudes. Instead, what is needed is the will to change.
“This can most effectively be achieved by raising the consciousness of individuals, bringing them to a greater understanding of the need to respect all persons regardless of their faith or cultural background.”
“It is imperative that the people of the various faith traditions work together in order to grow in mutual understanding,” he continued. “Here there is need for an authentic change of minds and hearts.
“This can be done best through education, beginning with children and young people, on the importance of tolerance and respect for cultural and religious diversity.”
“Cooperation among religions is a prerequisite for the transformation of society,” Archbishop Migliore added, “and must lead to a change of minds and hearts so that a culture of tolerance and peaceful coexistence among peoples can truly be built.”
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Full text: http://www.zenit.org/article-27356?l=english