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Vatican message to Hindus stresses religious freedom

October 20, 2011

An annual Vatican message to the world’s Hindus emphasizes the importance of religious freedom—perhaps reflecting concern in Rome about the continued violence against the Christian minority in India.

“Religious freedom is the answer to religiously motivated conflicts in many parts of the world,” the Vatican message says. The statement notes that religious freedom is among the most fundamental of human rights. “When it is jeopardized or denied, all other human rights are endangered.”

In a passage that could be read as critical of Indian civic leaders, the Vatican states that the fight to religious freedom imposes “a serious obligation on the part of civil authorities” to protect that right. India’s Christians have often complained that local police have failed to respond when Hindu extremists engaged in mob violence.

The Vatican also specifically states that religious freedom “includes the freedom to change one’s religion.” Hindu nationalists in India have bitterly complained about Christian missionary efforts.

The Vatican statement was timed for the Hindu feast of Deepvali, which celebrates the victory of light over darkness. The statement was released by the Pontifical Council for Inter-Religious Dialogue, and signed by Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran and Archbishop Pier Luigi Celata, the president and secretary of that body.


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