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Holy See diplomat strongly denounces intolerance against Christians in Europe

Catholic World News - May 28, 2013

The secretary of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, who represented the Holy See at a recent OSCE (Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe) conference devoted to tolerance, rued rising intolerance against Christians in Europe.

“Examples of intolerance and discrimination against Christians have not diminished, but rather increased in various parts of the OSCE region despite a number of meetings and conferences on the subject,” said Bishop Mario Toso, SDB.

“Across the OSCE region a sharp dividing line has been drawn between religious belief and religious practice, so that Christians are frequently reminded in public discourse (and increasingly even in the courts), that they can believe whatever they like in their own homes or heads, and largely worship as they wish in their own private churches, but they simply cannot act on those beliefs in public,” Bishop Toso added. “This is a deliberate twisting and limiting of what religious freedom actually means, and it is not the freedom that was enshrined in international documents.”

Bishop Toso continued:

There are many areas where intolerance against Christians can clearly be seen, but two stand out as being particularly relevant at present.

The first is intolerance against Christian speech. In recent years there has been a significant increase in incidents involving Christians who have been arrested and even prosecuted, for speaking on Christian issues. Religious leaders are threatened with police action after preaching about sinful behavior and some are even sentenced to prison for preaching on the biblical teaching against sexual immorality. Even private conversations between citizens, including expression of opinions on social network, can become the grounds of a criminal complaint, or at least intolerance, in many European countries.

The second area where intolerance against Christians can clearly be seen is in regard to Christian conscience, particularly in the workplace. Throughout Europe there have been numerous instances of Christians being removed from the workplace simply for seeking to act according to their conscience. Some of them are well known since they have come even before the European Court of Human Rights.

It is remarkable that after centuries of struggling for freedom of conscience, some citizens of the OSCE region in the 21st century are now being forced to choose between two impossible scenarios: they can abandon their faith and act against their conscience, or resist and face losing their livelihood. Participating OSCE States must therefore guarantee that intolerance and discrimination against Christians is ended, enabling Christians to speak freely on issues that the government or others may find disagreeable, and act on their consciences in the workplace and elsewhere. Discrimination against Christians – even where they are a majority – must be faced as a serious threat to the whole of society – and therefore should be fought, as it is done, and rightly so, in the case of anti-Semitism and Islamophobia.

Particular attention should be also paid to the widespread vandalism targeting churches and Christian cemeteries. Insulting or mocking graffiti, broken windows, burnt down, desecrated or devastated places of prayer and worship, damaged or smashed tombstones, in particular tombstone crosses, have been noted throughout the OSCE region. All these acts are not just harmless incidents committed by irresponsible teenagers or mentally disordered persons, as it is often claimed, but rather a result of a premeditated plan and should be therefore treated as a clear hate message and hate crime against Christians who are represented by, and who identify with, those symbols of their faith.

“Mr. Chairman, intolerance in the name of ‘tolerance’ must be named for what it is and publically condemned,” Bishop Toso added. “To deny religiously informed moral argument a place in the public square is intolerant and anti-democratic. Or to put it another way, where there might be a clash of rights, religious freedom must never be regarded as inferior. On the other hand, the issue of religious freedom cannot and should not be incorporated into that of tolerance. If, in fact, this was the supreme human and civilian value, then any authentically truthful conviction, that excludes the other, would be tantamount to intolerance. Moreover, if every conviction was as good as another, you could end up being accommodating even towards aberrations.”

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  • Posted by: Thomas429 - May. 29, 2013 1:30 AM ET USA

    This is what happens when you have socialist government. The Church's role in aiding the less fortunate nearly vanishes and people lose their way. One of these countries, Germany collects tithes for the churches and distributes themin proportion to their relative percent of the population. There is of course some overhead for this "service". The Church in America should note these facts and stop their unstinted support for government aid to individuals. It is not charity when there is force.

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