By Susan Brinkmann, OCDS
In the wake of a bloody massacre of 58 Catholics during Mass in a Cathedral in Baghdad this weekend, Archbishop Francis Chullikatt, the Permanent Observer of the Holy See, implored the U.N. to do more to protect Christians from violence.
“Religious freedom is central to ensuring that all members of the human family can more fully develop personally and spiritually,” the Archbishop said during an emotional address at the U.N. on November 1.
“However, many around the world today lack even the liberty to pray in community, to make personal expressions of faith and to exercise their well-formed consciences in accord with their religious faith. These are men, women and children whose searching for God is a prohibited activity, with many facing serious physical and legal repercussions for the pursuit of such a fundamental human need.”
He went on to express dismay that a recent UN report on religious tolerance failed to note the fate of Christians “who have been driven from their homes, tortured, imprisoned, murdered or forced to convert or deny their faith around the world. This is a crisis which continues to be ignored by the international community and requires the urgent attention of international and national leaders to protect the right to religious freedom of these individuals and communities.”
Even though the Holy See favors efforts to protect religion from “hate speech and incitement to violence,” the Archbishop said his delegation is uneasy with the current approach which targets “defamation of religion” because in practice, these measure tend to serve “as a means for State-sponsored oppression of religious believers.”
He cited this weekend’s Baghdad attack as “another tragic incident of the continued intolerance, discrimination and violence directed at Christians.”
The hope for the progress of humanity, which is at the core of the UN’s mission, cannot be realized until these abuses end, the Archbishop said.
“They must end and they must end now! And, with God’s help, the cooperation of all people of good will and of this organization, they will.”
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