Violence Against Religious Communities

Violence against religious communities (Doc. 13157)
Rapporteur of the Committee on Political Affairs and Democracy:
Mr Luca VOLONTÈ (Italy, EPP/CD)

Mr O’REILLY (Ireland) – I welcome the report and congratulate Mr Volontè on his great contributions to the work of the Assembly and its many committees. I salute him.

We cannot repeat often enough that every individual has the right to religious belief and its practice. Although this most fundamental of human rights is protected by Article 18 of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights and Article 9 of the European Convention on Human Rights, I am sad to say that it is not sufficiently honoured.

Religious freedom, of its nature, must also include the right of parents to educate their children according to their faith, philosophies and values. Such freedom also includes the right to practise faith openly. It is up to the elected government of a country to legislate for what it perceives to be the common good, and part of democratic debate in any civilised country should include the views of different faith communities on legislation and so on.

I should like to put it on the record that conscientious objection should be allowed in the fundamental case of abortion. Medical people who are not comfortable with abortion should have a right to conscientious objection. A true expression of rights and the dignity of the person would support that.

We must condemn violence against Christians in the Middle East, Africa and central Asia. The report gives well documented examples of violence against Coptic Christians, and it is a pity that the Arab Spring has not yielded better results. Our Council of Ministers should take a more active role in being visibly and actively against examples of violence. One could not be consistent without also condemning Islamophobia and anti-Semitism wherever they manifest themselves. One consequence of 9/11 and what happened recently in Boston could be an increase in Islamophobia. We have to guard against that. We need to guard against discrimination against any faith community. As Mr Connarty rightly said, the right not to believe should also exist in a civilised society.

This timely report goes to the core of our value system and what we are about in this prestigious Assembly. We need to repeat our values and insist that our Council of Ministers gives expression to them on all possible occasions.

Senator Joe O'Reilly representing Cavan & Monaghan 2010. | An ExSite website