2 Fronts Seen as Pivotal for Religious Liberty

Journalists Comment on Report

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ROME, JUNE 28, 2006 (Zenit.org).- China and the Muslim world are the two fronts that will shape the future of religious freedom, suggests a new report.



The "Report on Religious Freedom in the World," published by the international charity Aid to the Church in Need, was presented in Rome and Lisbon, Portugal, on Tuesday.

Magdi Allam, deputy director of the Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera, explained that "reading this report, though not being Christian, I perceived with great clarity that religious freedom is the foundation of freedom."

Allam, an Egyptian, pointed out that, in general, the secular world perceives "exactly the opposite."

"Religious freedom," he said, "is the foundation of liberty because it signifies respect for the sacredness of life and for the dignity and freedom of the person. Life and freedom … are the foundation of any liberal system and of democracy."

Regarding Muslim fundamentalists who commit acts of terrorism, Allam specified that it is not a question of "resisters but of terrorists who have an ideology of hatred and violence, and manipulate religion."

Ongoing persecution

Father Bernardo Cervellera, missionary of the Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions and director of AsiaNews, announced that, since Sunday, a delegation of the Holy See has been in Beijing to meet with Chinese government officials.

Despite that promising news, Father Cervellera noted the constant violations of religious freedom and human rights that the Chinese government continues to carry out against Christians and followers of other religions.

The priest recalled that nuns and priests have been beaten and Church properties expropriated to make way for buildings for the forthcoming Olympics.

Three Catholic bishops have been kidnapped by the Chinese police and there has been no news of them in seven years. There are priests who languish in concentration camps and, according to data provided by evangelical churches in the past year, 1,958 evangelical pastors and faithful have been imprisoned and their homes and places of worship destroyed.

"The repression of Christians is the tip of the iceberg of a repressive policy against anyone who fights for respect of human rights," observed Father Cervellera.

The missionary noted that, according to data from the Public Security Ministry, in 2004 alone "there were 76,000 social riots in China, with clashes between the population and the forces of order."