.- The Supreme Knight of the Knights of Columbus told young pilgrims in Madrid that the right to practice their faith could be kept or lost in the future, depending on their public witness and awareness.
“What are you going to do about it? Because I think you’ll have longer time to do something about it than I will,” he said, addressing over 1,000 pilgrims at World Youth Day 2011.
The Catholic fraternal and charitable organization's leader said the tone of Christians' public witness would be central to preserving religious liberty.
What “(w)e have to do is show people by the way we live our life that Christianity doesn’t frustrate human happiness – that Christianity actually promotes human happiness,” he observed.
The Supreme Knight was taking part in a panel discussion along with Denver Archbishop Charles J. Chaput, Law Professor Helen Alvare of George Mason University, Father Thomas Rosica of Canada's Salt and Light Media, and Pablo Barrosa, producer of the upcoming film “Cristiada.”
Their venue was the Love and Life Center at Madrid’s Palacio de Desportes, a hub for English-speaking pilgrims this week.
“Religious liberty goes to the center of what it means to be a person,” said Anderson, echoing the teaching of the Second Vatican Council. “It is foundational. It is at the very heart of the human person because it involves the human conscience.”
The Supreme Knight explained that the free exercise of religion was also at the heart of the United States Constitution. He went on to discuss what motivates modern attacks on this central human right.
He pinpointed the influence of three 19th century thinkers who attacked faith from different angles: Karl Marx, the Communist thinker who dubbed religion “the opium of the people;” Friedrich Nietzsche, the German philosopher who called Christianity “a slave religion;” and Sigmund Freud, the psychologist who labeled religion “an infantile delusion.”
The impact of these anti-religious attitudes, he observed, was now being widely felt in contemporary Western societies. There, he noted, opponents of the Christian faith, and religion in general, often believe they are removing an obstacle to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”
Religion, in other words, is being lumped in with a number of practices that harm society.
“What do you do with someone who promotes slavery, promotes drug abuse or promotes insanity?” asked Anderson, explaining this point of view. “Do you protect their right their liberty to do this? Or do you attempt by all sorts of means to push these people to the side, to marginalize them?”
Anderson told his young listeners that they must show the opponents of religion, and religious freedom, that their view of the Christian faith is wrong. They should see instead that “people who follow the truth of Jesus Christ celebrate life and live joyful lives.”
“So if we are to protect our religious liberty,” he concluded, “we have be a people who practice and manifest our religious faith, and do so in ways that make people realize its value and its truth and the contribution it makes to society.”
Virginia resident Joe Duca, 19, left inspired by Anderson's advice.
“What really struck is the idea that we must combat our culture with beauty and that will lead people to truth more so than posturing and political ideas,” he told CNA as he left the seminar.
Duca said many modern people seemed stuck in a “selfish” and “loveless” way of living. He was struck by Anderson's message, and the need to witness through selfless love.
“It is our job to fight … not with anger, but by showing our fellow Christians – and particularly our fellow youth – the love we all want, and that it’s in Christ Jesus.”
Charlene Broad, a 19-year-old pilgrim from Canberra, Australia, agreed.
“It was a great, inspiring talk. I’m studying journalism, so it has given me hope for the future to impact upon the world by just telling the truth.”