UN Could Fuel Religious Prejudice, Prelate Warns

Urges Clarification of Concept of Defamation

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GENEVA, Switzerland, MARCH 30, 2009 (Zenit.org).- The Holy See opposes the U.N. resolution on religious defamation, noting that this seemingly good initiative can bring negative consequences, says the Holy See's permanent observer at the U.N. offices.



Archbishop Silvano Tomasi explained that on March 26 the U.N. Council for Human Rights approved a controversial resolution presented by Pakistan, on behalf of the Islamic Conference Organization, in which it expressed "profound concern" over the frequent defamation of religions, but only mentioning Islam among them.

The archbishop asserted that at present the Christian community is the most discriminated against in the world. He noted that the concept of "defamation of religion" must be clarified," as "it can be used to justify laws against blasphemy that, as we well know, are used in some States to attack religious minorities, including violently."
 
The latest "Report on Religious Liberty in the World" published by Aid to the Church in Need noted that in Pakistan the worst instrument of religious persecution is the "Blasphemy Law," which continues to claim increasing numbers of victims, sentencing the death penalty or life imprisonment for offenses against the Koran.
 
The report stated, "According to numerous analysts, it is one of the tools used by Muslim fundamentalists to attack minorities and steer the country to radical Islamization."

Religious tolerance
 
Archbishop Tomasi said on Vatican Radio that in speaking of the struggle against religious defamation "the challenge consists in finding a healthy balance, which harmonizes one's liberty with respect for others' feelings, and the path to attain this objective begins with acceptance of the fundamental principles of liberty, which are inscribed in international treaties."
 
In his report to the Council, the Papal representative noted the increase of religious intolerance in the world, in particular against Christian minorities.
 
He stated, "If we analyze the world situation, we see that, in fact, as documented in several sources, Christians are the religious group most discriminated against; there is even talk of more than 200 million Christians, of the different confessions, who are in situations of difficulty, as there are legal and cultural structures that lead to a certain discrimination against them."
 
Archbishop Tomasi also lamented that fact that Christians are now subjected to discrimination even in some countries where they are a majority.
 
"There are situations -- including public parliamentary statements -- that attack different aspects of Christian belief, and this tends to marginalize Christians from society and to impede the contribution of their values to the same," he said.