Addressing the 52nd session of the Human Rights Council in Geneva, Archbishop Fortunatus Nwachukwu, Secretary of the Dicastery for Evangelisation, stressed the desire of the Holy See to bring to the attention of this Council “the plight of many individuals and communities who endure persecution because of their religious beliefs”

The Archbishop, in reiterating Pope Francis’ words, noted that peace also calls for the universal recognition of religious freedom. It is troubling that people are being persecuted simply because they publicly profess their faith, he said, noting that in many countries religious freedom is limited. “About a third of the world’s population lives under these conditions.”

Systemic abuse

Speaking of these frightening realities, Archbishop Nwachukwu brought light to the tightening of repressive measures and abuses witnessed in recent years, “including by national authorities, against religious minorities in many countries across the world”. In fact, he added, “believers are often denied the right to express and practice their faith, even when this does not endanger public safety or violate the rights of other groups or individuals”.

He added that this violence is also perpetrated towards places of worship and religious sites as they are desecrated and destroyed, and religious leaders violently attacked.

“Of no less concern is the condition of believers in certain countries where, behind the façade of tolerance and inclusion, discrimination is perpetrated more subtly and insidiously. In a growing number of countries, we witness the imposition of different forms of censorship that reduce the possibility of expressing one’s convictions both publicly and politically with the pretext to avoid offending the sensibilities of others”, noted the Archbishop. He went on to explain that in this way “much space for healthy dialogue and even public discourse is lost”.

Archbishop Nwachukwu then went on to stress that, in this regard, the Holy See “cannot fail to mention, as certain statistics have shown, that one out of every seven Christians experiences persecution.”

He finally quotes Pope Francis once more, in his insistence that “we should not overlook the fact that violence and acts of discrimination against Christians are also increasing in countries where the latter are not a minority. Religious freedom is also endangered wherever believers see their ability to express their convictions in the life of society restricted in the name of a misguided understanding of inclusiveness”.

He continued, “Religious freedom, which cannot be reduced simply to freedom of worship, is one of the minimum requisites for a dignified way of life. Governments have the duty to protect this right and to ensure that each person, in a way compatible with the common good, enjoys the opportunity to act in accordance with his or her own conscience, also in the public sphere and in the exercise of their profession.”