Vatican official calls for better protection of religious freedom


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VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The increasing incidence of religious intolerance in many parts of the world makes it clear that governments and international organizations need to step up protection of the basic right of religious freedom, a top Vatican official said.

Archbishop Silvano Tomasi, the church's representative to U.N. organizations in Geneva, said that many problems stemming from religion-based conflict could be controlled by existing national and international legislation.

In an address March 23 to the U.N. Human Rights Council in Geneva, he suggested the revival of an old idea of creating a specific convention protecting freedom of religion.

In his address, Archbishop Tomasi lamented "increasing instances of ridiculing religion, of lack of respect for religious personalities and symbols, of discrimination and killings of followers of minority religions, and a generalized negative consideration of religion in the public arena" which he said can "damage the coexistence of religious minorities and the community of believers and faith."

Laws in individual countries should not favor one religion over another, he said. It is essential to enforce the international and national norms already in place, which, "if properly applied, can remedy the gratuitous offense to religions and belief," he said.

The archbishop urged member countries of the council to "transform unfortunate incidents of religious intolerance and the culture that underlies them into an opportunity for a new engagement to dialogue and the reaffirmation of the right and value of belonging to a community of faith or belief."