Here in the United States we’ve seen the recent politicization of the debate over freedom of religion whereas internationally this issue is a matter of life and death, national security and of special concern to women who are most often the victims of religious intolerance. A recent symposium sponsored by the United States Council of Catholic Bishops, Catholic University, and Catholic Relief Services outlined the start dimensions of this crisis. Among several of the themes addressed were:
- Suppression of religious freedom fosters and begets violence; religious freedom is a necessary ingredient of domestic peace and stability.
- The predominant face of the victims of religious discrimination, intolerance or persecution is that of a woman.
- Religious freedom is an integral part of an authentically democratic society and its economic and social development.
- Religious freedom abroad is vital to U.S. national security.
Among 80 or more participants at the invitation-only symposium were four U.S. cardinals — Timothy Dolan of New York, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops; Donald Wuerl of Washington; Sean O’Malley of Boston; and Theodore McCarrick, who since his retirement as archbishop of Washington has been engaged in a major project to improve Catholic-Muslim relations around the world.
Participants also included three top Vatican nuncios — Archbishops Carlo Maria Viganò, Vatican ambassador to the United States; Francis Chullikatt, head of the Holy See’s observer mission to the United Nations in New York; and Silvano Tomasi, permanent Vatican observer to U.N. organizations in Geneva.
Several speakers described growing religious persecution, intolerance and discrimination around the world as reaching “crisis” proportions. “According to the International Society for Human Rights, 150,000 Christians are killed for their faith every year, meaning we have 17 new martyrs every hour of every day,” Dolan said in the symposium’s opening address.
“As Secretary of State [Hillary] Clinton observed only 10 weeks ago, ‘More than a billion people live under governments that systematically suppress religious freedoms … members of faith communities long under pressure report that it is rising. Even some countries that are making progress on expanding political freedom are frozen when it comes to religious freedom,’ ” Dolan added.
For much more on this very important issue and links to some of the addresses go to ipr.cua.edu. For a related article search the string “ncronline global symposium.” The returned link will take you to an article published in the popular weekly “National Catholic Reporter.” The September 24 article authored by Jerry Filteau is hereby credited as the source for this week’s bulletin letter.
Allen F. Corrigan, Pastor