Holy See Speaks Up for Minority Rights

Laments Lack of Respect for Religions

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NEW YORK, OCT. 31, 2007 (Zenit.org).- The Holy See continues to lament the lack of religious freedom in some countries, and especially the plight suffered by refugees and minorities.


Archbishop Celestino Migliore, permanent observer of the Holy See to the United Nations, affirmed this during an address delivered Monday to the 62nd U.N. General Assembly, on the topic of human rights and fundamental freedoms.

The Holy See, the prelate affirmed, "underlines that the right to freedom of religion or belief applies to all human beings everywhere. International refugee law clearly affords refugees specific rights in their country of refuge in the exercise of their freedom of religion or belief."

The delegation representative spoke out against legislation that prohibits freedom of religion.

"Blasphemy laws existing in some countries or regions have caused much suffering especially among religious minorities, either by the punishments inflicted which include death, or by the indirect consequences of destruction of places of worship or summary justice," Archbishop Migliore said. "In places where such laws are still in force, my delegation urges the public authorities concerned to safeguard those accused of blasphemy and to grant full respect of all their human rights. Religious minorities are fully entitled to enjoy the right to religious freedom, equal treatment before the law and the same civil rights as the general population and members of the majority religion."

The archbishop also mentioned the ongoing debate over the balance between freedom of speech and respect for religion.

"But while we are still engaged in an honest search and dialogue," he said, "everyone must exercise responsibility and respect. My delegation remains convinced that to encourage peace and understanding between peoples, it is necessary that religions and their symbols be respected and that believers not be the object of provocations that vilify their religious convictions. Further, respect for religion does not exclude dialogue and debate among religions and with those who do not adhere to any particular religion, aimed at deepening the search for a common and solid ground. Moreover, intolerance and violence as a response to offenses can never be justified, for this type of response is incompatible with the authentic spirit of religion and the effective respect for human dignity.

The Holy See's representative noted "progress in the dialogue among world’s religions is a positive development."

"It becomes an occasion to exhort one another to a deeper faith, to peaceful coexistence and mutual enrichment, especially when dialogue is practiced as both witnessing to one’s faith and respecting the religious convictions of others," he stated. "This progress in dialogue among religions has been accompanied by increased interest on the part of civil society, multilateral and national institutions. The Holy See hopes such interest will contribute to a greater respect by all for religious freedom everywhere."