Symposium on Religious Freedom in the post-secular state

Symposium on Religious Freedom in the post-secular state

The Faculty of Theology, University of Lugano

Lugano, Switzerland [APD; G. Vassallo; CD EUDNews]. Most of the world population, in fact 76%, lives in countries where religious freedom restrictions by the authorities are "high" or "very high"; social hostility towards one or more religions is signific

April 02, 2014 | APD; G. Vassallo; CD EUDNews;

Lugano, Switzerland [APD; G. Vassallo; CD EUDNews]. Most of the world population, in fact 76%, lives in countries where religious freedom restrictions by the authorities are "high" or "very high"; social hostility towards one or more religions is significantly increasing across the globe, including Switzerland; incidents of violence (even severe) have occurred in 25% of the World States, all motivated solely by religion.

The picture painted by a recent report by the Pew Research Center*shows clear and troubling data: according to Alexis de Tocqueville, religious freedom represents "the first, the most holy, and the most sacred of all human freedoms," and it is now being seriously challenged in most legal systems. Of course, religious freedom is a cornerstone of human rights and constitutes an essential element for ensuring peaceful coexistence among men. However religious freedom is not limited to the public authorities and questioned in many jurisdictions, but we find this hostility even socially, even in its core.

On March 27-28 human rights experts, lawyers, philosophers and theologians from Italy, Germany, Switzerland, and the United States met in Lugano for a symposium on religious freedom in the post-secular state. The event was organized by the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Switzerland and the Faculty of Theology at the University of Italian Switzerland (USI) in Lugano. It was open to students and the public.

Pastor David Jennah, AIDLR Swiss president, introduced the Convention, and Pastor Herbert Bodenmann, AIDLR Swiss General Secretary, showed a sensible video-clip on the Religious Liberty intolerance.

At the symposium, philosophical, theological and legal foundation of religious freedom were reflected upon, legal options were discussed in order to continue to keep religious freedom as a fundamental and inalienable human right in international law.

In four sessions, two experts concentrated on relevant topic and then discussed them with the audience (approximately forty). The first policy group was dedicated to the historical and philosophical background of religious freedom. Lecturers were: Professor Francesco D'Agostino, Philosophy and Law, University La Sapienza, Rome/Italy and Professor Adriano Roccucci, Contemporary History from the University of Rome. Chair: Professor Adriano Fabris, Faculty of Theology, Lugano.

Adriano Fabris pointed out the complexity of the current situation where different religions coexist in the same space,claiming absolute truth or fundamentalists even saying they had the only exclusive knowledge of truth, while on the other hand many contemporaries could care less about religion or fabricated their own religion. He urged religious communities to encourage their members to speak openly to other religious representatives. Whoev

er is afraid clams up and tries to preserve and guard his own exclusive beliefs. But Christianity is based on the relationship between God and man, and does not clam up, but remains open-minded.

The second session poitned on reasons for religious persecution and the legal, philosophical and theological ways to protect or promote religious freedom. The speakers were Dr. Ganoune Diop, director of External Rrelations and Religious Freedom of the Seventh- day Adventists Church, Silver Spring/USA and Professor Antonio Fuccillo, Canon Law, University of Naples/Italy. The debate was chaired by Davide Romano, Italian Religious Liberty director at the Seventh-day Adventist Church.

"There are many reasons that would lead to restrictions on religious freedom," said Dr. Ganoune Diop, "sometimes also on religious grounds." Man must never be reduced to an object. The concept of human dignity is fundamental to the granting of religious freedom and is not only a religious but also a secular concept. The violation of human rights have a common denominator: The contempt of human dignity. The dignity of man i

s fundamental to basic interaction between people. “Christ gave man more value” says Diop, being created "in the image" of God is available to everyone and gives people inner dignity. That is the reason God gives people a “holiness” that keeps them safe from harm and from any injuries.

The third section was devoted to the conflict between freedom of religion and freedom of speech. Teachers were Anna Gianfreda, University of Piacenza/Italy and Professor Luigi Foffani, Criminal Law, University of Modena/Italy. The chairman was Professor Emeritus Enrico Vitali, Canon Law, University of Milan/Italy. "The difference between the two freedoms change," said Anna Gianfreda. Regarding the laws against blasphemy, she critically noted that laws could indeed protect people, but not guard and protect their feelings and emotions.

The fourth session was devoted to the conflict between religious freedom and public order, which include places of worship such as churches, church bells, mosques or religious symbols such as crosses in government buildings or religious clothing (headcoverings). Lecturers were Professor Roberto Mazzola, Canon Law, University of Piemonte/Italy and Dr. Claudius Luterbacher, head the Diocese of St. Gallen. The debate was chaired by Professor Libero Gerosa, Canon Law, Faculty of Theology of the University of Lugano.

At the end of the two-day conference it was Professor Silvio Ferrari and Professor Stefan Mückl that drew the meeting to a close.

They represented Canon Law, University of Milan/Italy and the Faculty of Law, Albert-Ludwigs-University of Freiburg/Germany, respectively.


pictures: 1. Participants; 2. Prof. A. Roccucci, G. Vassallo, A. Fabris; 3. Pastor David Jennah, 4. Hebi Bodenmann, Secretary General AIDLR Switzerland; (credits: Corrado Cozzi)

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