Media Seen as Pivotal in Aiding Religious Liberty

Holy See Address to U.N. Human Rights Council

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GENEVA, SEPT. 28, 2006 ( The media have a decisive role in promoting religious freedom and tolerance in a globalized world, a Holy See representative told the U.N. Human Rights Council.

Archbishop Silvano Tomasi, the Holy See's permanent observer to the U.N. office in Geneva, addressed this argument Sept. 21, amid an international wave of protests by Muslims against Benedict XVI's address at the University of Regensburg, during his recent visit to Bavaria.

The archbishop called for respect for the Declaration on the Elimination of All Forms of Intolerance and of Discrimination Based on Religion or Belief, adopted 25 years ago.

"Today the implementation of this declaration remains in many ways still a distant goal," the prelate observed. "In several countries intolerance and violent acts directed in particular at people and communities of different religions violate their rights in a variety of ways."

Legal structures are not enough to guarantee this right, Archbishop Tomasi said.

He noted that in an era of mass communication and globalization, "What emerges is either a potential for fears and conflicts, or a new phase of mutual enrichment and respect that afford the opportunity to convey the contributions of all to more justice and a stable peace.

"An attitude of openness and mutual acceptance is therefore more urgent than any law tending to impose them, the education of the heart and the mind to recognize and value each person as an equal member of the human family."

For the future

The Holy See permanent observed suggested: "Communication media and textbooks should contribute in this effort and not stir up emotions with ambiguous or false messages that foster intolerance and close the minds to a future of conviviality."

To build such a future, the prelate called for deeper understanding of:

-- "one, the fundamental role and contribution of religion in the lives of individuals and communities";

-- "two, the differences among religions so that an honest and fruitful dialogue may take place";

-- "three, current geopolitics since regional and religious identities do not necessarily coincide, and this calls for a correction of perceptions."