Open letter to the Prime Minister of the Italian Republic, professor Giuseppe Conte

Giuseppe Conte

Esquire professor Giuseppe Conte,

Our Federation is at work on the entire European region to protect and promote the individuals’ freedom to believe and not believe, a right which is granted in Italy firstly by the Constitution, in other nations by the respective statutes and international treaties, as well as by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of December 1948.

Religious freedom – the application of which is extended to atheists, agnostics and non-believers as acknowledged by the European Court for Human Rights (ECHR, Kokkinakis vs Greece, par. 31) – and the respect of other people’s faith or non-faith, cannot and must not be considered as a handout to be indulging in giving by a national government whose major representatives are characterized by a given confession, as the Italian TV network seemed to be affirming in the show Porta a Porta (Door to Door) of last September 19th.

The principle of a ‘laical government’ has its roots in our primordial Republic: a “free Church in a free State” was talked about by Camillo Benso of Cavour, and already since mid XIX century, Carlo Alberto’s Bill was subject to a progressive shaping in the direction of a greater and greater religious plurality. Nowadays, these are no longer the times of “cuius regio, eius et religio” (“one’s land, one’s religion, too”): in a multi-ethnic Europe, in the times of globalization, being Italian does no longer mean being Catholic, nor even it means being necessarily religious, and does not imply an obligation to abide by a certain creed. After the sad period of the fascist regime, the Constitution of the Italian Republic was the strongest reaffirmation of the principles of an equal freedom of all religious confessions in the eyes of the law.

If we just somehow broaden our view, we would recognize that we are living in a historical moment of great turmoil as far as religious freedom and human rights are concerned. Our federation has been exposing (but also proposing and presenting practical strategies of solution) the liberticide operations that slither in certain lands and turn out into a blind intolerance, a serious discrimination and sometimes an insane persecution, even of a violent nature, for fool reasons connected to confessional membership.

In academic areas, appropriate and documented talks were done about what is the transformation process is, seeing hate germinate, after being stirred up within the society, and eventually turn into blood after going through the stages of intolerance (instigated by propaganda) and discrimination (implemented on the basis of an ideology now consolidated).

The main pathway, well indicated, to prevent such abuses and to stop such a process of social drift, the first warnings of which are being spotted in our country, too, marks its beginning or its first milestone, in a genuine and unbiased dialogue between the governmental agencies and the single religious organizations.

The traditional religious confessions, the minority religions and all the so-called new religious movements (which, although minor in number, have more and more followers – current estimations are around hundreds of thousands of Italian citizens), may exert a determining influence in the resolution of the social turbulence that every now and then come up in the most different areas of life: the government needs to be able to locate which is the exact keynote of the cultural phenomena that accompany such turbulence, needs to be able to take advantage of an alliance with all religious groups, because from them, may it gain assistance and actual help in sorting out many situations. Ibi semper est victoria, ubi est concordia (where concord stands, there also victory dwells), was affirmed in the I century b.C. Publilio Siro, a slave become an artist then liberated thanks to his intellectual qualities – which is useful to recall, for a better understanding of a so simple but so bright thought – and so required in Rome by a great leader as Julius Caesar.

In our country, religious intolerance has reached proportions that do give some worry; however, fortunately we are not yet in a state of things that can be compared to the one currently occurring in nations like Russia or China – we still have an opportunity to interrupt the spiral of hate.

But if the protection of constitutional rights is not actively implemented and guaranteed, the inevitable outcome will be a door open wide to liberticide drifts.

The social genesis of religious persecution stems from intolerance, continues with discrimination and winds up with persecution: this is a credited academic thesis that was described in details during a convention held in Rome in 2015 under the guardianship of OSCE, and was then retaken and remembered by professor Massimo Introvigne in the final part of the international convention ‘Law and Freedomof Belief in Europe, an arduous journey’ which was held by our Federation in January this year in Florence, organized under the auspices of the Secretary General of the European Council, credited with the sponsorship of the Tuscany Region, the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly and the University of Florence, and awarded with the Medal of the President of the Republic.

We actually deem, that broadly increasing peoples’ awareness on these topics is even more important, in those lands in which religious freedom is apparently granted, just because failing to intervene every time signals of intolerance occur, may result into the triggering of a mechanism of discrimination and hate, which eventually bring as a consequence to persecution, and from there even faster to violent suppression (just like it is happening in Russia and even more seriously in China).

In Italy, we may call ourselves lucky thanks to the brilliance of our Constitution; and yet, as an illustrious intellectual as Piero Calamandrei commented, in a renowned talk he held in Milan in January 1955:

"Our constitution is partly a reality, but only partly a reality. It is partly still a program, an ideal, a hope, a commitment for a work to be accomplished."

Calamandrei’s teachings are also of a great actuality, because they get us to constantly and responsibly watch out on the respect and implementation of our Constitutional Bill: “A democracy in which equality exists only in the rule of law, is just a merely formal democracy, not a democracy in which all citizens are enabled to partake in the life of society, to bring their best contribution, or in which all spiritual forces of all citizens will contribute to this journey or this continuous progress of all society.”

In the name of this towering and enlightened principle from one of the fathers of our Constitution, we ask You, professor Conte, not to allow that religious freedom is degraded to a charity given out by a power.

We also appeal to Your role as a prime minster, to delegate those entitled to, to an accurate review of those institutions which in recent years showed some misalignment verus the Constitution and were subject to exploitation on the part of extraneous subjects, to the detriment of citizens or organizations, at taxpayers’ expense.

With the sole aim of a better relationship between the government and the population, we make ourselves fully available for Your office and You, to provide information, programs, counsel and literature.

We warmly thank You for Your attention.

Our respect,

European Federation for Freedom of Belief (FOB)