Archbishop Chaput makes plea for equal rights for Christians in the West

Europe and the West must “fight discrimination and intolerance against Christians and members of other religious communities,” Archbishop Charles Chaput told an international summit of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) yesterday.

The archbishop of Denver spoke at the OSCE conference, held in Cordoba, Spain, whose main aim is to find ways to fight discrimination and intolerance against Jews, Muslims and Christians living in Europe. Its objective also includes exploring the role of government, civil society and the media in this initiative.

The archbishop spoke directly, telling the summit that the OSCE must “protect Christian communities and other religious groups from discrimination and intolerance. The media should be encouraged to offer truly balanced coverage of religious faith. Educational systems should teach the value of faith in people's lives.” 

He noted that various OSCE media often allow the Christian faith and its symbols to be publicly mocked and abused. This, he said, stands in stark contrast to OSCE commitments to promote religious freedom.

He said Europe’s current growing anti-religious and often anti-Christian spirit undermines its witness to democracy. Public debate, he added, must also allow for the religious perspective

“Public debate without a free and welcoming role for religious faith does not produce diversity or pluralism,” he said. “It can create politics without morality, and public institutions without enduring ideals.”

He reminded participants that the Christian faith shaped present-day Europe, and that Judaism and Islam made important contributions.

“The founders of the European unity movement were all professed Christians,” he pointed out. “Their commitment to the great project of Europe’s future came from their moral convictions, which in turn grew out of their religious identity and Christian heritage. 

He remarked that Europe demonstrated its religious roots and current beliefs during the death and funeral of Pope John Paul II, who he described as a “son of Europe’s Christian imagination and history.”

Archbishop Chaput also made the distinction between direct and indirect discrimination. Both, he said, are present in the West. The former refers to actual legal and social structures that are set up to make the practice and growth of faith and religions difficult.

The latter is revealed when “expressions of religious faith often seem to be ridiculed as fundamentalism,” he said. “In the name of respecting all religions, a new form of secular intolerance is sometimes imposed.  Out of fear of religious fundamentalism, a new kind of secular fundamentalism may be coerced on public institutions and political discourse.” 

The archbishop expressed his hope that all OSCE participating states “will do everything in their power to discourage all forms of religious intolerance – including any disrespect for Europe’s own Christian roots.”

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