Last update: 2022-04-22 09:51:31
One Sunday in December, on the fourth day of the month, Benedict XVI surprised the world. And above all the Western mass-media world. He spoke about the fortieth anniversary of the end of the Second Vatican Council and about one of its most important and innovative documents: the Declaration Dignitatis humanae on religious freedom. And this was his surprising declaration: 'religious freedom is very far from being effectively assured everywhere'. The surprise lay in the fact that in Western public opinion the view is rather widespread that religious freedom is inhibited only in Communist countries or Islamic countries. Very few people are convinced that it is obstructed also in democratic countries whose Constitutions sanction the broadest guarantees for freedom. These statements of Benedict XVI testify, more than a large number of speeches, to the utility today of the Report on Religious Freedom in the World which has been produced for the last seven years by the Italian section of the 'Opera' subject to pontifical authority 'Help to the Church that Suffers'. From the four hundred and forty pages of the Rapporto 2005 a complete survey emerges of the situation in a hundred and ninety countries, from which one draws the conclusion that the primary good of religious freedom is very far from being respected and assured in the world. Hundreds of millions of people are subjected to violence, oppression and persecution because of their faith.
State atheism in Communist countries such as China and North Korea, and the kind of fundamentalist and repressive Islam that imposes the law of the Koran in Saudi Arabia, Pakistan or Iran and unleashes religious wars in Nigeria and Indonesia, are the principal culprits. But in the democratic and libertarian West as well subtle forms of violation of religious liberty are taking place because of a secularist fundamentalism that marginalises religion and the Church and undermines with its own legislation the ethical values of life and the family.
From this Report of 2005 emerges the gravity of the situation in China, with nineteen bishops who have been taken prisoner or impeded in their functions, and nine priests condemned to hard labour, who thus join others in the same condition. A real and authentic emergency is to be seen with the persecution of non-Muslims in Saudi Arabia, Iran and Pakistan. The Christian minorities are in the sights of extremist Buddhists in Sri Lanka and Hindus in India. In North Korea three hundred thousand Christians have disappeared over the last fifty years. The situation is grave in Nigeria where Christians are the victims of attacks, disturbances and abuse. The guerras in Uganda have produced a hundred thousand victims. In Africa, the offensive of Islamic fundamentalism is proceeding apace and for decades has unleashed a civil war in the Sudan. In countries such as Egypt and Morocco persecution afflicts citizens who abandon Islam for Christianity.
This year the President of the Chamber of Deputies, Pier Ferdinando Casini, wanted the Report to be presented to the public in the prestigious Sala del Mappamondo of Palazzo Montecitorio. Of importance was the condemnation made by Casini of what he defined as 'the worrying approach' in Europe to the Church which 'does not live in a condition of suffering but increasingly comes up against a secularist approach which tends to propose, in varyingly explicit ways, its marginalisation from society'. In the Report reference is made to 'a new wave of secularism' which has been unleashed in France with the approval and the implementation of a law that prohibits the wearing of religious symbols in schools, and in Germany 'with various local provisions the same end is pursued'.
The illustrations provided by a geographical map with five colours is very useful: in green the Islamic area where grave forms of discrimination are present derived from Islamic law; in red the social-Communist area where the party in power impedes free worship; in yellow the Hindu/Buddhist area with social, political and legal forms of discrimination because a person does not belong to one of these two religions; in grey the area of countries with restrictive legislation or social pressure on believers in general or minority faiths; and in white those countries without significant episodes as regards religious freedom.