by Steno Sari — Religious freedom means the possibility of believing in what one likes, as well as not believing, and often includes the fight against dogmatism, prejudice and intolerance. Throughout history, it has cost an incalculable number of lives burnt in bloody religious conflicts. Safeguarding this freedom concerns the essence of human dignity and can rightly be considered the litmus test for the respect of all other fundamental rights and freedoms, since it is their synthesis and keystone. For this reason, most of the constitutional charts of Western countries, as well as the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights, protect the right to freely profess one's faith, to worship and to propagate it. A right that includes the freedom to change religion or faith if one wishes.
Nonetheless, freedom of belief still remains one of the most violated freedoms, as it touches the deepest feelings of many who consider people of other faiths a threat. According to a report on religious freedom around the world, there are dozens of nations where "the continued penalization of religious expression results in the complete denial of rights and freedoms and includes long-term detentions without a fair trial, rape and murder."
Intolerance, whatever its form, invariably depends on feelings of superiority at the basis of which, however, there is uncertainty and a sense of inferiority; in effect, a fear arising from weakness. To remain in Europe, with the fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of the USSR, the problem was hoped to be only a distant memory. Instead, even in Russia we are unfortunately witnessing a resurgence of intolerance towards religious minorities.
Everyone must be allowed to express his or her own beliefs, while respecting the beliefs of others. Protecting oppressed and marginalized communities in order to safeguard the fundamental right to believe in one's own religious dictates is an essential condition for a free and just society. Someone may think that in Italy today the problem does not exist and that tolerance towards those who think differently is well established. But could it not be that this is due not so much to the recognition of the rights of others as to a general spirit of apathy and religious indifference?
Article appeared on Libero on January 23, 2023 and republished with the author's permission.