By Robin Gomes
The Holy See is reiterating its advocacy of the universal and unbiased application of the fundamental right to freedom of religion or belief saying it is the “litmus test of all other human rights”.
The “barbarous acts” of the last century led the international community to put the freedom of religion and belief, together with the right of freedom of expression, as one of the centre pillars of the architecture of human rights, said Archbishop Ivan Jurkovič, the Holy See’s Permanent Observer to the United Nations and Other International Organizations in Geneva.
He made the point in a statement handed on Tuesday during a Human Rights Council meeting on the freedom of religion or belief.
Among other dimensions that should be given due consideration, the Slovenian archbishop said, the right to freedom of religion or belief entails also the “freedom, at personal, civic or social levels, from any form of coercion to perform acts contrary to one’s faith…”
Rooted in the depths of the human person, the right to religious freedom, he said, blossoms or withers together with all human rights, in such a way that respecting it can be considered the “litmus test of all other human rights”.
The Holy See diplomat observed that increasing calls to restrict the right of conscientious objection, indicate that some politicians and even some quarters of international agencies, forgetting their nature and mandate, are still uncomfortable with the right of freedom of conscience and belief.
He also noted astonishing reports in many parts of the world of discrimination, intolerance, aggression, imprisonment and even death for staying faithful to their conscience.
When persons and communities are not allowed to live and celebrate in coherence with their deepest convictions, the Vatican official said, the bonds that keep society together dissolve and the violation of rights often turns into a violent crisis.
Arch. Jurkovič echoed the concern of Pope Francis that the current crisis of multilateralism could depend, among other things, on “the growing influence within the international organizations of powers and interests’ groups that impose their own visions and ideas, sparking new forms of ideological colonization, often in disregard for the identity, dignity and sensitiveness of people”.
The Holy See official expressed appreciation for the efforts of some governments who are assisting persecuted Christians around the world and are establishing effective legal frameworks that respect the right to freedom of religion or belief.