Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Religious Freedom

In recent times when we think of religious freedom, we are often reminded of such restrictions of Christianity in Muslim controlled countries around the world. However these restrictions are not just in, for example Saudi Arabia or Iran or in many of the Muslim Asian countries.

I found this interesting article on the Catholic Exchange website that explores this topic.

Religious Freedom : A Double Standard

October 8, 2007

On Sept. 24, President Bush spoke to the UN General Assembly against "regimes that deny their people fundamental rights enshrined in the Universal Declaration." He was referring to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted by the UN General Assembly in 1948. Article 18 of the Declaration defines freedom of religion and belief as follows: "Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship, and observance."

Stressing that the expansion of freedom is not just a Western goal, nor a mere Bush doctrine, but a fundamental agreement of the world body, the President cited Myanmar, where "basic freedoms of speech, assembly and worship are severely restricted."

The issue of religious freedom is part and parcel of the American heritage, not only in political speeches, but also in academic circles. When Lee Bollinger recently introduced the president of Iran as a guest speaker at Columbia University, he scathingly referred to Iran's denial of freedom to a religion founded there in the 19th century: the Baha'i faith. The mainline media picked up Bollinger's statement and clearly emphasized it.

Current criticism of those who deny religious freedom throughout the world often focuses on Muslim countries. It is noticeable, however, that the same critics in America have nothing to say about ongoing violations of religious freedom by the Israeli government. Just recently, for example, it has rescinded its policy of granting re-entry visas to Arab Christian ministers, priests, nuns and other religious workers who wish to move in and out of the Israeli-occupied Palestinian territories to church offices in Jerusalem, or to travel abroad. In the past, re-entry visas were routinely granted to Arab Christian religious workers in the Holy Land, and clergy traveled relatively freely to and from points overseas, including the United States. They must now apply for re-entry visas at Israeli consulates abroad each time they travel outside the areas under Israeli control. Since visa applications submitted to Israeli missions abroad take months to process, the new Israeli policy means that religious personnel will no longer be able to move freely outside their parishes in the West Bank. Many of the clergy and other church workers are from nearby Jordan, which made a peace treaty with Israel in 1994. The new Israeli policy will effectively prevent them from visiting their families there.

Rev. Fares Khleifat, the only Greek Catholic priest in Ramallah, traveled to Jordan for several days in mid-September. When he tried to return to his parish on September 14, he was stopped at the Al Sheikh Hussein Bridge, and his valid multiple-entry visa was canceled without explanation. He was forced to return to Jordan. His de facto deportation from the Holy Land by the Israeli government has left his parish without a priest. Father Faris, a holder of both Vatican and Jordanian passports, commented: "For the past six years, I have been traveling regularly between the West Bank and Jordan on church affairs without any problems whatsoever."

Father Faris is one of thousands of foreign passport holders who have been denied entry by the Israeli authorities over the past several years, and is only the latest in a trend in refusing religious-worker visas. This trend, which has disturbed Vatican officials for some time, is one of a number of contested policies under debate in a Vatican-Israeli permanent working commission since 1994, when the Vatican and Israel established diplomatic ties. In 1997, a Fundamental Agreement was made, clarifying the legal status of Catholic institutions in Israel. That agreement, however, was never added to Israeli law, rendering it unenforceable. With no legal relationship between the Church and the Israeli government, church property disputes cannot be resolved in court. The Israeli government thus reserves for itself the handling of Church-property disputes. There are many cases of confiscation of Church properties by Israel that have never been resolved or even litigated. Since 1994, the Vatican has requested guaranteed access to juridical due process through the Israeli court system when property disputes arise, and, more specifically, the return of those Church properties confiscated by the Israeli government. The failure to come to an agreement on these issues has been a long-standing obstacle in Vatican-Israeli relations.


Now this from another source.

'Not a Single Christian' in Birthplace of Christ

The once vibrant Christian communities of Bethlehem and Nazareth, with roots in the "land of Jesus" going back to first century Israel, are rapidly declining in the face of a systematic campaign of persecution conducted by the same Muslim terrorists intent on driving the Jews into the sea.

Beatings, sham legal proceedings, property seizures, dismissal and replacement of elected Christian leaders, accusations of selling property to Jews and intimidation by gunmen with links to the government of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas have so reduced Christian populations in the cities of Jesus' birth and boyhood one community leader predicts all Christians will be gone within 15 year

lots of turmoil in the Holy Lands...

...please excuse the formatting...my computer or this application is acting up.

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