By Oswald Sobrino, J.D.; M.A. (Econ.); M.A. (Theo.); M.L. (Master of Latin), doctoral student, University of Florida.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Religious Freedom and Human Rights: The Necessary Framework for the Flourishing of the Middle East

Here are excerpts from the synod on the Middle East recently presided over by the Pope in Cyprus:


Catholics are called to promote the concept of "positive secularism" of the State to "eliminate the theocratic character of government" and allow "greater equality among citizens of different religions, thereby fostering the promotion of a sound democracy, positively secular in nature, which fully acknowledges the role of religion, also in public life, while completely respecting the distinction between the religious and civil orders". ...
           . . .
"In the Middle East, freedom of religion customarily means freedom of worship and not freedom of conscience, that is, the freedom to believe or not believe, to practice openly one's religion, privately or publicly, or to change one's religion for another. Generally speaking, religion in the Middle East is a social and even a national choice, not an individual one. To change one's religion is perceived as a betrayal of the society, culture and nation, which are founded, for the most part, on a religious tradition". For this reason "conversion to Christianity is perceived to be from self-interest and not authentic religious conviction. Oftentimes, the conversion of Muslims is forbidden by State law". ... In the meantime, Islamic extremism continues to grow in the entire area creating "a threat to everyone, Christians and Muslims alike".
          . . .
"Often relations between Christians and Muslims are difficult, because Muslims make no distinction between religion and politics - the document states - thereby relegating Christians to the precarious position of being considered non-citizens, despite the fact that they were citizens of their countries long before the rise of Islam. The key to harmonious living between Christians and Muslims is to recognise religious freedom and human rights". 


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