The right to religious freedom
"Religious freedom is the cornerstone of all freedoms; to prevent others from freely professing their religion is tantamount to jeopardizing our own." Pope John Paul II
A substantial portion of the world's population lives in countries where the right to religious freedom is restricted or prohibited. In fact, almost every religion is experiencing persecution somewhere in the world. At the same time, almost every religion is in a position of power somewhere in the world where it is restricting the rights of other religions.
Franciscan Father Damian MacPherson speaks at an interfaith event at Scarboro Missions focusing on religious freedom. Toronto.
Accordingly, there is a profound connection between religious freedom and interfaith dialogue-when a given state upholds religious freedom, it simultaneously validates all of the various religions in that country. Indeed, the international interfaith movement is very committed to addressing issues of religious freedom and dialogue.
The Scarboro Missions Interfaith Desk has sponsored events focused on religious freedom. One such event took place at Scarboro Missions' central house and featured Franciscan Father Damian MacPherson, director for Ecumenical and Interfaith Affairs for the Archdiocese of Toronto.
Fr. Damian first outlined the Church's somewhat shameful history of religious intolerance. He then proceeded to share the good news of the Second Vatican Council, which produced ground-breaking documents on both religious freedom and interfaith dialogue. Most notable among these are the Declaration on the Relation of the Church to Non-Christian Religions, and the Declaration on Religious Freedom.
After centuries of triumphalism, the Church has begun to embrace a new understanding of itself and other religions. And that includes a radically new level of support for religious freedom. This dramatic breakthrough in terms of religious freedom has found a tireless supporter in the person of the "interfaith Pope," John Paul II. All over the world, he has consistently advocated for religious freedom.
The Unitarian commitment to promoting tolerance, freedom of conscience and freedom of belief moved Scarboro Missions to co-sponsor an event on the theme of religious freedom at the First Unitarian Congregation of Toronto.
The multifaith gathering begins with a Unitarian worship service followed by a meal.
The interfaith panel at the event, L-R: Hare Chopra (Hinduism); Ahmed Motiar (Islam); Linda Fedryk (Unitarianism); Ellen Campbell, panel moderator and president of the International Association of Religious Freedom. This session stimulated a lively response in both small group and plenary discussion.