Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Some items on religious freedom and dialogue

Several items from Zenit in recent days:

KOENIGSTEIN, Germany, SEPT. 27, 2006 (Zenit.org).- More than a decade after the end of the Yugoslavia war, there is still no "political will to achieve justice," warns a bishop from Bosnia-Herzegovina.

Only 3% of Catholics expelled from the Banja Luka Diocese during the war have been allowed to return, according to the bishop. That's out of 70-80 thousand, about two-thirds of the Catholic population there. In Sarajevo, the number of Catholics decreased from 500,000 to 125,000.

Nine priests and one nun were killed during the war in present-day Bosnia-Herzegovina; 99 churches were destroyed and 127 damaged, not counting dozens of other attacks on monasteries and ecclesial centers. An estimated 450,000 Catholics were forced to leave their homes.
Bosnia-Herzegovina has 4.4 million inhabitants. Some 40% are Muslims, 31% Orthodox and 15% Catholics.

SHENZHEN, China, OCT. 2, 2006 (Zenit.org).- Two priests were arrested in Shenzhen, in the southern province of Guangdong, reports a U.S.-based watchdog agency.

The priests were arrested upon their return from Europe, with no reason given. A large number of books and photos they had brought back were also confiscated.

Both had previously been arrested in 1999; one for publishing hymn books. He had been imprisoned until 2003.

WASHINGTON, D.C., SEPT. 23, 2006 (Zenit.org )
The U. S. State Department has submitted its 2006 Annual Report on International Religious Freedom.

..."This report is a natural outgrowth of our country's history." says ambassador at large for international religious freedom John Hanford III.

"Our own record as a nation on this and other freedoms is not perfect," Hanford admitted. Nevertheless, he insisted that religious liberty is a precious concept in American history and that the report aims at making the right to this freedom a reality for all humankind.

Singled out for special recognition (yes! that's irony, darn it!):
China (which claimed the report was "groundless," of course,) Saudi Arabia, Myanmar (Burma,) North Korea, Iran, Sudan, Eritrea, and Vietnam.

What, according to the Report, constitutes abuse of religious liberty?

-- That type carried out by totalitarian and authoritarian regimes, which seeks to control religious thought and expression. In these countries some or all religious groups as seen as enemies of the state because of their religious beliefs or their independence from central authority.

-- State hostility toward minority or non-approved religions. Governments guilty of this type implement policies such as: demanding that adherents recant their faith; forcing adherents of religious groups to flee the country; and intimidating certain religious groups.

-- Failure by a state to address discrimination or abuse against religious groups. "Protecting religious freedom is not just a matter of having good laws in writing," the U.S. report noted; rather, it also requires active work by governments at all levels. Governments should also foster an environment of respect and tolerance for all people, the report urged.

-- Discriminatory legislation or policies that favor majority religions and disadvantage minority religions. This often results from historical dominance by the majority religion and a bias against new or minority religions, added the report.

-- Discriminating against certain religions by identifying them as dangerous cults or sects. This is a common type of abuse, even in countries where religious freedom is otherwise respected, the report observed.

Former Spanish president Jose Maria Aznar commented that, while Muslims the world over demanded apologies from Pope Benedict XVI for his Paleologus citation, he had yet to hear an Islamic apology for invading Spain in 711 and subsequently holding most of the country for 800 years. (Also here) Islam Online promptly responded by sensibly denying that there ever was an invasion of Spain, although they did seem to acknowledge a 'conquest':

Raisouni said Aznar's speech reflected a "crusade tone and spirit."
"The speech brought to the surface the grudges harbored by Aznar towards Islam, which has been a message of peace and love throughout the centuries," he said.

[Why do I feel a chorus of Kum-Ba-Yah coming on?]

He said Muslims neither invaded nor colonized Spain.
"But the Islamic conquest of Al-Andalus (Spain)had given momentum to human civilization and brought human beings closer as manifested in the historic collections left by the Muslims of Al-Andalus," he explained.

[Hat tip:Me Monk. Me Meander.]


Linked below is a viewpoint by a gentleman who spent a year teaching in Saudi Arabia in the late 90's. I found it interesting, especially in view of some of my recent religious discussions.
Observations on Arabs
[hat tip Philokalia Republic]



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