Speaking at a conference on tolerance and discrimination, Catholic bishop Mario Toso warned that Christians have been increasingly subjected to intolerance in Europe. The May 21 gathering was held in Albania and organized by the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE). A session of the conference dealt with intolerance and discrimination against Christians and members of other religions. Bishop Toso is currently the secretary for the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace.
“At the last High-Level Conference on tolerance and non-discrimination, held three years ago in Astana,” the prelate said, “the participating States committed, among other things, to counter prejudice, discrimination, intolerance, and violence against Christians and members of other religions, including minority religions, which continue to be present in the OSCE region,” said Bishop Toso.
The bishop said that Christians in Europe increasingly are told that they may believe whatever they like in the private churches, but are not free to act on their beliefs. Bishop Toso said that this amounts to a “deliberate twisting and limiting of what religious freedom actually means, and it is not the freedom that was enshrined in international documents,” including the documents forming the OSCE.
“ They were also called to address the denial of rights, exclusion, and marginalization of Christians and members of other religions in our societies. Unfortunately, examples of intolerance and discrimination against Christians have not diminished but rather increased in various parts of the OSCE region despite a number of meetings and conferences on the subject organized also by the OSCE and Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR).”
“It is regretful, therefore, to note that across the OSCE region a sharp dividing line has been drawn between religious belief and religious practice, so that Christians are frequently reminded in public discourse (and increasingly even in the courts), that they can believe whatever they like in their own homes or heads, and largely worship as they wish in their own private churches, but they simply cannot act on those beliefs in public. This is a only deliberate twisting and limiting of what religious freedom actually means, and it is not the freedom that was enshrined in international documents, including those of the OSCE beginning with the 1975 Helsinki Final Act, stretching through the 1989 Final Vienna Document and the 1990 Copenhagen Document, and including the 2010 Astana Summit Commemorative Declaration.”
“Participating OSCE States,” Bishop Toso emphasized, “must therefore guarantee that intolerance and discrimination against Christians is ended, enabling Christians to speak freely on issues that the government or others may find disagreeable and act on their consciences in the workplace and elsewhere. Discrimination against Christians – even where they are a majority – must be faced as a serious threat to the whole of society and therefore should be fought, as it is done, and rightly so, in the case of anti-Semitism and Islamophobia.”
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