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The Magic of religious freedom

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Last January 1, Pope Benedict XVI formally issued his message on the occasion of the World Day of Peace, which was initiated by the Vatican some 44 years ago. The title and theme of his message is “Religious Freedom, Path to Peace”. 

The lengthy message made a thorough assertion for the need of religious freedom as an all-embracing basis for individual and social well-being, justice and peace.  On that ideal, at one point in his message the Pope said:

“Today too, in an increasingly globalized society, Christians are called, not only through their responsible involvement in civic, economic and political life but also through the witness of their charity and faith, to offer a valuable contribution to the laborious and stimulating pursuit of justice, integral human development and the right ordering of human affairs.”

To the Pope, authentic religious freedom is a pro-active and integrative phenomenon or thing.  Beyond social and juridical tolerance or co-existence, which is guaranteed in the Philippines’ Constitution and laws, religious freedom  is only fully realized across religious and cultural lines through lived manifestations of mutual respect, solidarity and cooperation at all levels and structures of society – ultimately, for that indispensable common good. True religious freedom liberates and empowers the individual to become fully human, and thereby to give a rich and concrete meaning to his and to other people’s lives.

For us in Zamboanga and Mindanao, our overall present, oppressively negative conditions of violence and poverty in a highly culturally-diverse and complex society make the Pope’s inclusive message supremely relevant and urgent. “For the Church, dialogue between the followers of the different religions represents an important means of cooperating with all religious communities for the common good”, the Pope emphasized in his message.

This turbo-charged, courageous kind of religious freedom – meaning, in anchoring and illuminating democratic institutions, benchmarking proper religious and social relationships, propelling interfaith peace-building, or triggering even a personal epiphany - is central to human happiness and fulfillment, or in sum: for anyone to actually or eventually experience that after-all not-so-tricky or -impossible phenomenon called “peace”. For as the Pope furthermore says in his message:  “Peace brings to full fruition the deepest qualities and potentials of the human person, the qualities which can change the world and make it better. It gives hope for a future of justice and peace, even in the face of grave injustice and material and moral poverty.” (Press Release/Peace Advocates Zamboanga)

By PAZ







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