martedì 10 novembre 2020

“Freedom of Religion or Belief: The Role of Digital Technologies and Civil Society Actors In Advancing This Human Right For All”

Statement by Monsignor Janusz S. Urbańczyk, Permanent Representative of the Holy See, at the Third Supplementary Human Dimension Meeting (SHDM) on “Freedom of Religion or Belief: The Role of Digital Technologies and Civil Society Actors In Advancing This Human Right For All”
Session I: The State of Freedom of Religion or Belief in the OSCE Region: Challenges and Opportunities
Mr Moderator,
As this is the first time that my Delegation takes the floor during this 3rd Supplementary Human Dimension Meeting of 2020, allow me to thank the Albanian OSCE Chairmanship-in-Office and the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) for organizing this event on the freedom of religion or belief.One of the main challenges facing those who today stand up for and defend freedom of religion or belief is convincing people that in a secular age religious freedom is an important right worthy of protection. The exercise of religious freedom constitutes both an element of personal fulfilment and a contribution to the good of society. Only a robust respect of this freedom can guarantee the free and full development of our democratic societies and security.
The Holy See “is convinced that ‘belief’ contributes, for both individuals and communities, to respect for freedom of thought, the search for truth, personal and social justice and the rule of law, all of which are necessary if there is to be a just relationship between citizens, institutions and States.”(1)
Nevertheless, in certain societies, religions continue to be perceived as a source of intolerance rather than of social harmony. They are felt as a threat to tolerance, peace and security, rather than an enrichment and a contribution to cultural and social development. The situation can contribute to the dangerous creation of a negative attitude towards religions and believers. This harms the well-being of these persons and communities, and indeed of society as a whole. Violence, persecution and killing in the name of God is not religion but radicalism. States have the responsibility to promote the common good, social peace and coexistence by respecting pluralism and protecting the freedom of religion or belief.
The Holy See affirms that OSCE participating States – based on the consensually agreed commitments – are bound to reject the so called reductionist approach to, or understanding of, freedom of religion or belief. Such reductionism seeks to privatize religions “in an attempt to reduce them to the quiet obscurity of the individual’s conscience or to relegate them to the enclosed precincts of churches, synagogues or mosques.”  This reveals a failure not only to appreciate the true sense of freedom of religion or belief, but also the legitimate role of religion in the public arena.
OSCE commitments enshrine both the inviolability of individual conscience, and the religious dimension in its specificity as a socially organized phenomenon. Consequently, the right of religious communities to exist as autonomous organizations is recognized in OSCE commitments. In this regard, it is to be noted that, while the establishment of registration mechanisms for religious communities, which enable them to function within an administrative and legislative framework and in accordance with the rule of law, are clearly in line with OSCE commitments, States should be vigilant that such mechanisms do not become a violation of the freedom of religion or belief itself.
Moreover, it should always be kept in mind that, in the regime that governs access to legal personality, participating States must also respect the autonomy of religious or belief communities, guaranteeing them freely to select, appoint and replace their leaders or to decide on their internal rules, the contents of their beliefs, their structure or name. Violations of the autonomy of religious communities could be also produced by certain anti-discrimination laws, which can limit the right to hire or dismiss people in accordance to the communities’ views and interests.
It is well known that different measures imposed by States to combat the COVID-19 pandemic have had profound ramifications on the freedom to manifest one’s religion or belief and have limited the religious, educational and charitable activities of faith communities. Legislators should always be aware of the severe consequences those regulations create for religious or belief communities which play an important role in combating the crisis not only by their active support in the field of healthcare, but also by their moral support and their messages of solidarity and hope.
Thank you, Mr Moderator.
(1) Statement by Archbishop Paul Richard Gallagher, Secretary for the Holy See's Relations with States, at 22nd OSCE Ministerial Council.