Freedom of worship, a right to be defended

Steno Sari

by Steno Sari — In an address to an international conference, Pope Francis said, "Religious freedom is not just that of a private worship thought. It is freedom to live according to ethical principles consequent on the truth found, both privately and publicly." According to the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (Uscirf), an independent, bipartisan federal body created in 1998 to monitor religious freedom around the world, abuses and violations of Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights are on the rise worldwide. Sixteen countries around the world, mostly Asian, systematically violate freedom rights.

Among the most persecuted groups are Uyghurs, Shiite Muslims, Rohingya, Buddhists, Falun Gong practitioners, Baha'i, Jews, Jehovah's Witnesses, Hindus, Atheists and other Christianity groups. The latest Uscirf report indicates that among the causes of persecution are terrorism, extremism, sedition, and blasphemy, but that the main reason (29 percent) why governments oppress minorities is unknown (unknown).

In Russia, and somewhat throughout Central Asia, in the former Soviet republics, conditions for religious freedom are getting worse and worse. Russian legislation, under the guise of fighting 'extremism, persecutes "nontraditional" religious minorities, and since Putin invaded Ukraine Russian authorities have been intensifying their efforts to intimidate and silence human rights defenders. The most affected community in Russia is Jehovah's Witnesses. In recent years, 643 Witnesses have been accused of "extremism" and 350 of them have been detained or arrested (there are about 100 Witnesses imprisoned in Russia in recent months). To tell the truth, Russia completely disregarded its international commitments well before the start of the recent conflict, completely ignoring its human rights obligations in the UN and the Council of Europe, from which the Russian Federation was expelled on March 16, 2022 on the unanimous opinion of the Committee of Ministers.

The Uscirf report also includes some European countries among those of "concern" given the increasing number of acts of vandalism against places of worship. This necessitates the continued initiative of independent organizations to protect freedom of belief and religion, such as FOB (European Federation for Freedom of Belief), an independent secular organization.

In recent days, at a conference organized by the Lirec Study Center at the Salesian Pontifical University in Rome with the topic "Environment, Health and Freedom of Belief," president Dr. Raffaella Di Marzio, supporting the idea that in the foreground there should always be the dignity of every person, said, "Defending freedom of religion and belief means defending other rights as well, such as that of association and thought. It is an established fact, that where freedom of belief is protected, the positive effects on the economy and social welfare are effective to the benefit of all."

Article appeared on Libero on May 14, 2023 and republished with the authorization of the author