Calzolari: saving the cultural and religious diversity of man

Silvio Calzolari

Short analysis by Silvio Calzolari (FOB Secretary) on the declarations released at OSCE HDIM conference by FOB President, Alessandro Amicarelli and by the confederated associations SOTERIA and CAP.

In recent decades, the right of every human being to freedom of expression and religious practice has often been proclaimed, including at the highest levels (United Nations, Council of Europe, the Helsinki Conference, OSCE etc.).

Governments have repeatedly committed themselves to abandon any discriminatory practice, as long as religions do not violate any criminal laws or the rights of citizens.

Unfortunately, despite these formal commitments and much talking about freedom of religion and belief in meetings and conferences around the world, but also in Europe and in Italy, the presence of discrimination is all too obvious. To guess it, just read the "declarations" by Alessandro Amicarelli, President and spokesman of FOB, or those of two of our federated associations (SOTERIA and CAP), presented in September 2016, during the 12th and 13th session of the OSCE Conference in Warsaw.

OSCE HDIM (Human Dimension Implementation Meeting) is the most important European Conference on human rights and FOB, since its creation, with its federated associations, has contributed with numerous official statements on various aspects of religious freedom.

In the words of Alessandro Amicarelli, of SOTERIA and CAP it becomes clear that discrimination and misinformation are practiced in Europe, even on a large scale.

How are they implemented? In some cases, even with repression (as in the episode described by CAP spokesman Thierry Valle on a man of Indian origin accused, in France, to be a mental manipulator and sentenced to preventive detention for six months). In many other cases, in a more subtle way: by granting social or economic and tax benefits to some Faiths, which get privileged to the detriment of others, or through the strategy of suspicion towards any group or movement (often referred to by the derogatory term of "sect"), especially if the latter practices different forms of religious profession from those considered "normative" from the so-called majority.

This is all easily inferable reading the statement tabled by CAP on religious discrimination in France, and in that of SOTERIA reporting about the case of some Associations connected to the Indian tradition of Karma Yoga. Even the President of FOB, Alessandro Amicarelli, in his statement concerning "freedom of religion in Italy" underlines, with strength and clarity, the existence of these discriminating trend lines.

Despite the consolidation of the "open society" and the guarantees of freedom of thought and religion established by the Italian Constitution, also in our country some signs suggest the existence of an uncanny combination of authoritarian nostalgia and the critique of free choice in the spiritual realm. Attorney Amicarelli, during his speech to the Assembly of OSCE identified three of them: the so-called "anti-mosques" law, which is in practice a law against religious minorities, the existence of a unit of the Italian police called SAS (i.e.: "Anti Cult Squad”) and the undisturbed operation in some European countries of organizations (that call themselves NGO), but that, to the best of our knowledge, receive funds and subsidies from Governments (the best known one is the French FECRIS) and which act, even internationally, in a highly discriminating  way against minority faiths or independent or alternative manifestations of spirituality.

All of this in violation of some of the most important international policies against religious discrimination, starting from the famous article 18 of the Constitution of the United Nations and also present in the guidelines of Freedom of Religion and Belief FORB, adopted by the Council of the European Union.

The basis of these guidelines is that every individual is a moral and rational being owning certain inalienable rights. Among them there is also the right to freely profess one’s belief or religion. The treaties and guidelines are not and should not be or remain a mere theory. They should have the force of law and be binding on the Governments that have ratified them. A true democracy should enforce its own laws to protect the rights of all. Religious discrimination is an offence to human dignity and a violation of human rights.

In his second statement, the President of FOB, instead, puts the highlight on how the guidelines of FORB and the "freedom of movement" are closely linked and connected. The freedom of religion includes the right to manifest one's religion or belief everywhere: "to prevent someone from entering a country because of his faith is a violation of the European Convention on human rights".

Interculturality is the main feature of our world in constant migration. It is a world that has to learn to cross cultures, to dialogue with religions and faiths that should be seen not as dogmatically closed monolithic blocks, but as a reality in constant interaction. Stimulating this dialogue is one of the purposes of FOB. But dialogue can arise from the attitude of a thought that not only respects the thoughts and opinions of others, but it is also sympathetic to them. FOB wants to help develop a practice which, following the fundamental principle of the right of human beings to have their own vision of religion or belief, encourages and cultivates the plurality of worldviews and mutual respect between them.

The philosophical attitude of FOB starts from the recognition of the plurality of religions and beliefs with their respective cultural matrices and their forms of argumentation and foundation. FOB is fighting to save man's religious and cultural diversity in all its dimensions; it fights for the plurality of worlds within a peaceful coexistence and solidarity.

Some will say we are utopians. That may be true, but it's nice to think of a more just world where all enjoy the same rights.

It is a duty for us to make this happen..

Silvio Calzolari