.- The Vatican Council for Interreligious Dialogue has offered its âcordial greetingsâ to Hindus celebrating the feast of Deepavali. The council proposed religious freedom as the answer to religiously motivated conflicts.
âMay God, the source of all light, illumine your hearts, homes and communities for a life of peace and prosperity,â said the Oct. 20 message, signed by the council president Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran and the council secretary Archbishop Pier Luigi Celata.
The three-day Deepavali celebrations begin this year on Oct. 26. They mark the beginning of a new year and are a time for Hindus to take part in family reconciliation and adoration of the divine.
The Council for Inter-religious Dialogue traditionally shares a reflection on the occasion. This year it chose the subject of religious freedom because it is at center stage in many places. The subject calls attention to âthose members of our human family exposed to bias, prejudice, hate propaganda, discrimination and persecution on the basis of religious affiliation.â
Religious freedom is a fundamental human right, they said.
âWhen it is jeopardized or denied, all other human rights are endangered. Religious freedom necessarily includes immunity from coercion by any individual, group, community or institution,â they explained.
The message comes after several years of tensions and anti-Christian violence in some parts of India. Hindu radicals have participated in deadly attacks that have driven Christians out of their homes and destroyed their churches.
The Vatican council said that the human freedom to profess, practice and propagate religion or belief can take place in public or private, alone or in a community.
The right to religious freedom also involves a âserious obligationâ from civil authorities, individuals and groups to respect the freedom of others. It also includes the freedom to change oneâs own religion.
The councilâs letter observed that respect for religious freedom allows believers to be âmore enthusiasticâ about cooperating with their fellow citizens to build âa just and human social order.â Its denial stifles and frustrates âauthentic and lasting peace.â
The council noted areas like the defense of life and the dignity of the family, the education of children, honesty in daily life and the preservation of natural resources as areas in which believers can make a specific contribution to the common good.
âLet us strive, then, to join hands in promoting religious freedom as our shared responsibility, by asking the leaders of nations never to disregard the religious dimension of the human person,â the council said.
âWe cordially wish you a joyful celebration of Deepavali.â