Archbishop Silvano Tomasi, the Holy See’s Permanent Observer to the United Nations in Geneva addressed the 22nd Session of the Human Rights Council today. Archbishop Tomasi spoke on the report of the Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief.
Citing the growing problem of physical attacks and kidnappings of people for their faith or belief, Archbishop Tomasi stated that effective protection is inadequately addressed even by the U.N. and international organizations.
“Lately this worrying situation has caught the attention of some Governments and segments of civil society,” he said. “Thus awareness about this serious problem has become more evident. On the other hand, widespread discrimination affecting religious minorities persists and even increases.”
Archbishop Tomasi noted that while the Special Rapporteur’s report on Freedom of Religion or Belief has focused on human rights violations against religious minorities, he stated, however, that the report underplays “basic issue that minorities are defined either from the perspective of a ‘majority’ or from the perspective of other ‘minorities.’”
“The legal recognition of a minority”, he continued, “is the starting point for the necessary harmony between individual and group freedom.”
“By adopting such a realistic approach to this issue the coexistence of communities is facilitated in a climate of relative tolerance.”
Archbishop Tomasi went on to say that before a realistic approach can be taken, it is necessary for legal status to be granted to religious communities. The Holy See’s permanent observer agreed with the report’s recommendation that States create more favourable conditions for religious minorities in order to preserve and develop their “religious community life and identity”.
“Only through respect for this balance can both peaceful coexistence and the advancement of all human rights be attained,” Archbishop Tomasi said.
Concluding his address, Archbishop Tomasi emphasized the role of religious freedom as a responsibility fulfilled by both religious groups and individuals. “The recognition of the religious freedom of individuals and social groups implies that they should act by the same standards of the freedom they enjoy and such a condition justifies their presence as important and authentic actors in the public square,” he said.