Noting the irreplaceable role of religion in society, he added that religious freedom is not only a moral issue, but also “a non-negotiable civil right, given by the Creator and not by the state.”
He explained that government “transgresses the limits of its authority” when it fails to respect the God-given right to religious freedom by coercing people to violate their religious beliefs or prohibiting them from participating in public life.
Although religious freedom is formally recognized as a civil right in most constitutions and national documents, there are many areas of the world where it is not fully respected, the archbishop said.
He voiced concern over increasing intolerance towards religion in many parts of the world today, often directed at Christians.
In the West, religion is treated as a destabilizing threat to modern society, he added.
Despite its strong Christian history, believers in much of Europe find themselves marginalized, impeded and discriminated against, as secular forces attempt to remove the voice of religion from society, he explained.
Archbishop Chullikatt warned that although the West has not yet reached a level of violent persecution and oppression, “it is from this marginalization and denial of religious freedom” that such violence is born.
Constant vigilance is necessary, he said, stressing that Americans cannot assume that liberty will always be secure at home and atrocities can only happen in other countries.
Catholic bishops across America have warned that a domestic erosion of religious liberty has already begun, manifest in part by a federal health insurance mandate that will require religious individuals and institutions to violate Church teaching by offering contraception, sterilization and abortion-inducing drugs.
The archbishop urged Catholics to speak up for the religious freedom of their spiritual brothers and sisters around the world.
He explained that “by defending their rights, we shall be defending our own rights.”
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