Violation of Religious Freedom Damages Cause of Peace, Vatican Says at U.N.

Official Points to "Apartheid" in Certain Professional Activities

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NEW YORK, NOV. 18, 2003 (Zenit.org).- In an address to the United Nations, the Holy See highlighted the violation of the fundamental human right of religious freedom in many countries and stressed its damaging effect on peace.



Archbishop Celestino Migliore, permanent observer of the Holy See to the United Nations, addressed the Committee of the General Assembly on "Human Rights Questions, Including Alternative Approaches for Improving the Effective Enjoyment of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms."

The papal representative said that the "Special Rapporteur of the Commission on Human Rights on Freedom of Religion or Belief has often reminded authorities in various countries of the laws and administrative practices that continue to limit or violate the rights of individual believers or religious groups formally recognized by their constitutions."

"In his latest report, he expresses apprehension about a new upsurge in administrative regulations on freedom of religion, referring in particular to the compulsory discriminatory registration of religious groups and the imposition of specific regulations in certain countries in order to curtail, in violation of the international standards, the right to religious freedom," the archbishop said.

"In some countries, manifestations of religious intolerance still exist, such as serious prohibitions to religious instruction of children and young people, and restrictions in the concession of visas to religious personnel," he added.

The Holy See representative also mentioned the "lack of freedom in the use of mass media and other means of social communication for religious purposes; denial of permits to build new places of worship; hate propaganda; misleading statements at times even by public authorities against other religions; destruction and irreparable damage of holy sites."

In addition, Archbishop Migliore called attention to "religious 'apartheid' in certain professional activities; prohibition to conduct public worship; violence against religious minorities, including killings of religious leaders and pilgrims."

"It is regrettable that certain national legislations deprive their citizens of the freedom to change their religion, even when they decide to do so after having honestly, freely and responsibly sought the truth, according to the dictates of their conscience," he added.

"Every violation of religious freedom, whether overt or concealed, does fundamental damage to the cause of peace," he said. "This year, as we observe the 55th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, let us not forget that people are being victimized for their religious convictions in various parts of the world."

"In this regard," he added, "my delegation shares the view that dialogue and cooperation with religions can contribute to the efforts of the United Nations and other international, regional and national organizations in achieving peace, harmony and understanding around the world."