Loiola XXI

Lugar de encuentro abierto a seguidor@s de S. Ignacio de Loyola esperando construir un mundo mejor

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La libertad religiosa en el mundo. Pasado y presente. Análisis. Muy recomendable

Religious freedom in crisis around the world

 |  Faith and Justice
The nearly unanimous conclusion of people following the situation of religious freedom around the world is that matters have been getting worse, not better.

This is not happy news for me as I begin my second two-year term as a member of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, a bipartisan commission that reports on the state of religious freedom abroad and makes recommendations to the president, Congress, and the State Department. The views expressed in this column do not necessarily represent the views of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom.

But the conclusion is well-founded. More and more people have been killed, persecuted, or forced to flee their homes because of their beliefs. The situation is bleak in many places in the world.

The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom and the U.S. State Department have designated Burma, China, Eritrea, Iran, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Turkmenistan, andUzbekistan as “countries of particular concern,” a legalese way of saying these countries “engage in or tolerate particularly severe violations of religious freedom that are systematic, ongoing and egregious.”

To this group, the religious freedom commission adds eight more that it believes the State Department should also classify as countries of particular concern: Central African Republic, Egypt, Iraq, Nigeria,Pakistan, Syria, Tajikistan, and Vietnam.

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Our vision of religious persecution goes back to the Roman Empire, when Christians were thrown to the lions because they would not worship the Roman gods or the emperor. But post-Reformation Europe also saw Catholics and Protestants persecuting each other and going to war over religious differences. Meanwhile, Jews were persecuted by all sides.

It was the hope for religious freedom that brought many believers to America, and tolerance and religious freedom, however imperfectly practiced, have been important ideals from the founding of our republic.

John Adams in a letter to Thomas Jefferson opined that religious freedom must be respected even if it meant that Jesuits would run free in the United States. “Shall we not have regular swarms of them here, in as many disguises as only a king of the gypsies can assume, dressed as painters, publishers, writers, and schoolmasters?” he wrote. “If ever there was a body of men who merited eternal damnation on earth and in hell it is this Society of Loyola’s.”

America’s conviction on the importance of religious freedom as well as our positive experience with it has made the U.S. a proponent of religious freedom around the world.

Early in the last century, the persecution of religion by fascists and communists alerted believers to these dangerous movements long before the public at large understood them. Today we understand that any regime that persecutes religion is not going to respect other human rights. We also understand how discrimination and persecution can escalate into genocide when the “other” is dehumanized and demonized.

Catholics and Protestants are no longer killing each other in Europe, although antisemitism is still alive and well. To antisemitism has been added Islamophobia, the fear of the new stranger in our midst.

Meanwhile in the Middle East we see fights between Sunnis and Shiite that are just as bloody as the fights between Catholics and Protestants centuries earlier. Christians in the Middle East have been caught in the crossfire and been targeted by Islamic radicals, especially the Islamic State group.

And in Africa, Christians and Muslims are in conflicts that have escalated out of control in places like the Central African Republic.

Religious conflicts are rarely purely theological. Often they are also fights over resources and political power by tribal or ethnic groups. What begins as a political fight or a dispute over water, land, oil, or other resources can explode beyond control if the disputants are from different religious groups. Political leaders who add religion to the mix are pouring gasoline onto a fire that had already been started.

In the past, we normally saw religious freedom under attack by states that through laws and police imposed their religious views on unbelievers. This is still true in countries like Saudi Arabia.

Other countries, like Cuba, Russia, Vietnam, and China, promoted atheism but are now more interested in political domination. Their governments fear independent organizations, including religious groups that they do not control. They are usually happy to let groups worship as they please as long as they support the regime. But if a religious group wants to be independent or if it promotes democracy and human rights, the government will smash any resistance.

Today, religious liberty is under attack in many places, not so much by the state as by factions within the nation that the state is incapable or unwilling to control. This is especially true in failed states, like Eritrea, Syria, and Sudan, but also in countries like Nigeria, where the government is not persecuting believers but its criminal justice system is so corrupt and incompetent that the rule of law fails to preserve the peace. If victims cannot get justice from the state, they turn to vigilantism and retaliation, which only escalates the conflict.

Likewise, in India, the government is reluctant to crack down on violence against Muslims and Christians by Hindu nationalists who are a key constituency of the ruling party. Nor is the government of Myanmar (Burma) willing to protect Muslims from militant Buddhists.

This is why the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom is concerned not just about countries that engage in bad behavior but also countries that tolerate it.

Proponents of religious freedom need to understand the complexity of each country if they want to effectively support religious freedom. In many countries, the best way of fostering religious freedom may be through encouraging the rule of law and discouraging corruption. Treating all citizens fairly is essential to avoiding violent reactions from groups who feel they are being mistreated. Proponents of religious liberty should support those promoting the rule of law and an end to corruption.

On the other hand, proponents of religious freedom need to recognize that capitalism did not bring democracy and religious freedom to China as promised, although improvements in religious freedom have occurred in Vietnam and Cuba.

Nor does getting rid of tyrants necessarily mean better relations between religious groups. Sadly, we have seen that when strongmen like Josip Tito, Saddam Hussein, Hosni Mubarak, and Muammar Gaddafi are removed, religious conflicts can increase.

Believers also have a responsibility to break down the walls between their communities through interreligious dialogue and understanding. This cannot just be a conversation between elites; it must reach down to neighborhood mosques and churches. This is important because it is harder to stereotype or demonize people when you know them personally. But this groundwork needs to be done before conflicts occur. Once the fighting starts, it is very hard to put things right.

The struggle for religious freedom will not be easy. It may take generations, which is why the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom has led an effort to improve how various religions are described in textbooks, especially in Muslim countries like Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and Pakistan. Poisoning the minds of children guarantees problems in the future.

Religious freedom and interreligious harmony go hand in hand. It is very easy to destroy understanding and trust. Restoring it is hard.

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Los mártires de El Salvador. Entrevista con el jesuita Juan Hernández Pico.



La UCA de San Salvador se he convertido en un santuario de los mártires. En una entrevista, el jesuita Juan Hernández Pico habla de los mártires de El Salvador, y de cuantos, además de Mons. Romero, podrían ser beatificados.

Véase la entrevista en el siguiente enlace:


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Cuba: libertad religiosa y no sólo de culto.



AMERICA/CUBA – Libertad religiosa y no solo libertad de culto en el futuro de Cuba

La Habana (Agencia Fides) – “Sueño que la Iglesia pueda realizar la labor que le corresponde, que es anunciar a Cristo en el país con los medios que posee. Al mismo tiempo me gustaría que la Iglesia fuera ganando los espacios que le corresponden en la sociedad”: es la esperanza que manifiesta el padre Yosvany Carvajal, Párroco de la Catedral de La Habana y Rector del Centro Cultural Padre Félix Varela, hablando sobre la visita pastoral del Papa Francisco a Cuba, del 19 al 22 de septiembre.

En la entrevista publicada por la Conferencia Episcopal de Cuba, de la que hemos información en la Agencia Fides, el sacerdote explica que la libertas religiosa “ va más allá de la libertad de culto, porque la libertad de culto sería celebrar dentro del templo, tener permiso para que no se cierren las iglesias, etc. La libertad religiosa va mucho más allá, incluye por ejemplo el  acceso a los medios de comunicación, tener acceso a la enseñanza, participar más intensamente en espacios públicos. Yo tengo el sueño de que la Iglesia puede implementar esa misión en la Cuba del futuro”.
El padre Carvajal subraya la importancia fundamental en esta visita del anuncio de Jesucristo, como ha afirmado el mismo Papa Francisco en su vídeo-mensaje a los cubanos, “muy profundo, conciso y sustancioso”, exponiendo el objetivo de su viaje: “Vengo a anunciarle a Jesucristo”, “hace falta que el pueblo se abra al mensaje, -continua el sacerdote – un pueblo con poca práctica religiosa pero muy religioso, algunos con una gran confusión… Es bueno hablarle de Jesucristo y que el Papa hable del amor”. (SL) (Agencia Fides 19/09/2015)

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Carta del Papa a los cristianos de Medio Oriente.

Carta del Papa para los mártires cristianos de Oriente Medio – El silencio de los inocentes

«En más de una ocasión quise ser voz de las atroces, inhumanas e inexplicables persecuciones de quien —sobre todo entre los cristianos— es víctima del fanatismo y de la intolerancia, a menudo ante los ojos y el silencio de todos».

Lo escribe el Papa Francisco en la carta enviada, con fecha del 31 de julio, al arzobispo Maroun Elias Lahham, auxiliar de Jerusalén de los latinos y vicario patriarcal para Jordania, en el primer aniversario de la llegada al país medioriental de los refugiados iraquíes que huían de la llanura de Nínive, acaecida el 8 de agosto de 2014. Portador del mensaje pontificio es el obispo Nunzio Galantino, secretario general de la Conferencia episcopal italiana, que del 6 al 9 de agosto se encuentra en Amán por invitación del patriarca de Jerusalén, Fouad Twal. «Que la opinión pública mundial –desea el Pontífice– esté cada vez más atenta, siendo sensible y partícipe, ante las persecuciones perpetradas en contra de los cristianos y, más en general, de las minorías religiosas. Renuevo el deseo de que la comunidad internacional no asista muda e inerte ante tal inaceptable crimen, que constituye una preocupante deriva de los derechos humanos más esenciales e impide la riqueza de la convivencia entre los pueblos, las culturas y los credos».

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América Latina: tres buenas noticias. Comentario.

TRES BUENAS NOTICIAS DE AMERICA LATINA. Un mes para recordar, con la beatificación de Romero el 23 de mayo y las causas de Câmara y Angeleli recién autorizadas por la Santa Sede

OK de Roma también para Angelelli

OK de Roma también para Angelelli

La última buena noticia es de hoy, 11 de mayo: la Santa Sede autorizó la apertura del proceso diocesano para una futura y probable beatificación del obispo de La Rioja (Argentina), monseñor Enrique Angelelli, asesinado por los militares argentinos el 4 de agosto de 1976. Fue un crimen odioso que durante 30 años todos, o casi todos, presentaron como “la trágica consecuencia de un accidente en la ruta”.

Pero ésta no es la única buena noticia del mes de mayo para los católicos y las iglesias católicas de América Latina. Es sabido que el próximo 23, en San Salvador, será beatificado el arzobispo Oscar Romero, muerto por odio contra la fe en 1980 a manos de un comando de paramilitares de la extrema derecha salvadoreña. Y el 3 de mayo pasado el arzobispo de Olinda y Recife, Brasil, dom Fernando Saburido, con la debida autorización del Vaticano, abrió el proceso diocesano para la causa de beatificación de Dom Helder Câmara, su antecesor en la diócesis.

En esos tres nombres – Romero, Câmara y Angelelli- se resumen y se fundan los nombres y las vidas de tantos otros pastores y laicos que en las últimas décadas fueron asesinados en América Latina  solo porque eran cristianos, acusados a menudo de ser extremistas: el Cardenal Juan Jesùs Posadas Ocampo (México, 1993), los obispos colombianos Jesús Emilio Jaramillo Monsalve (1989, Arauca) e Isaías Duarte Cancino (2002, Cali) y numerosas decenas de sacerdotes, religiosos, catequistas y operadores humanitarios. Entre ellos se encuentran tres misioneros eliminados en Perú, Michele Tomaszek y Sbigneo Strzalkowski, misioneros polacos (muertos el 9 de agosto de 1991) y el sacerdote diocesano italiano Alessandro Dordi (25 de agosto de 1991), que serán beatificados el 5 de agosto. Estos misioneros a su vez simbolizan y recuerdan a tantos otros extranjeros asesinados en la región, estadounidenses, africanos y europeos, como los 6 jesuitas de la Universidad Centroamericana de El Salvador (1989) y las 4 religiosas estadounidenses masacradas en el mismo país en 1980.

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Irak: situación de los católicos.

Cardenal Sandri: Presidente de Irak desea recibir al Papa Francisco “cuando sea posible”

Por Marta Jiménez

Cardenal Leonardo Sandri durante su visita a Bagdad (Irak) / Foto: L'Osservatore Romano

Cardenal Leonardo Sandri durante su visita a Bagdad (Irak) / Foto: L’Osservatore Romano
TICANO, 04 May. 15 / 06:21 pm (ACI).- Continúa en Irak la violencia de los terroristas del Estado Islámico (ISIS), pero eso no ha detenido al Prefecto de la Congregación para las Iglesias Orientales, Cardenal Leonardo Sandri, quien visitó Bagdad (Irak), del 1 al 3 de mayo para extender la solidaridad del Papa Francisco a las máximas autoridades del país, entre ellos el presidente Fuad Masum, quien expresó su deseo de recibir al Pontífice “cuando sea posible”.


l Cardenal argentino compartió el primer día en Bagdad con la comunidad cristiana del país, y los Obispos, sacerdotes y religiosos de la ciudad. Mientras que la segunda jornada visitó la Nunciatura y se dedicó al diálogo interreligioso visitando la mezquita Abu Hanifa, de mayoría sunita.

El domingo la autoridad vaticana fue recibida en el Palacio presidencial por el presidente Fuad Masum, quien recordó que los cristianos han habitado Irak desde hace milenios y por ello son ciudadanos de pleno derecho.

“Tengo que decir que por su parte hay una gran admiración al Santo Padre yun gran deseo de poderlo encontrar algún día, cuando sea posible, en Irak”, afirmó el Cardenal Sandri en declaraciones difundidas por Radio Vaticana este 3 de mayo.

Indicó que el Presidente Masum destacó la preciosa labor de las escuelas dirigidas por las comunidades cristianas, y expresó su deseo de recibir al Papa Francisco en Irak en cuanto las condiciones lo permitan y recordó que en los siglos pasados la capital iraquí estuvo rodeada de monasterios.

El Cardenal Sandri dijo que “para superar todas las dificultades hay una gran voluntad de unidad, de solidaridad. Los cristianos, y los católicos en particular, están llamados a colaborar en la construcción del Irak del futuro, lleno de paz, democracia, justicia y solidaridad”.

“Realmente he podido apreciar esta situación en estos días, aunque hayamos estado rodeados de noticias muy crueles, como la de los yazidís o de algunas explosiones en la capital, también cerca de la Nunciatura, donde hemos estado”.

Durante su estancia en la capital, el Purpurado visitó el Museo Nacional, que atesora la historia milenaria de Irak y donde se encuentran restos de cruces talladas en piedra que testimonian la llegada del Evangelio en los primeros siglos de la era cristiana.

Después de su visita a Bagdad, el Cardenal Sandri viajó a Erbil, la capital del Kurdistán iraquí, donde se refugian miles de familias desplazadas a causa de la ofensiva terrorista.

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La libertad de religión atacada hoy en el mundo.


Religious freedom is under attack around the world

 |  Faith and Justice
Religious freedom is under attack in numerous places around the world, but it is especially bad in 17 countries, according to a report issued by the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF).

Nine of these countries have already been singled out by the State Department as “countries of particular concern” (CPC): Burma, China, Eritrea, Iran, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan.

The commission recommends that an additional eight countries be added to this CPC list: the Central African Republic, Egypt, Iraq, Nigeria, Pakistan, Syria, Tajikistan, and Vietnam.

Another 10 countries were listed by USCIRF as “Tier 2” countries, where violations are serious but not as bad as in CPC countries: Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Cuba, India, Indonesia, Kazakhstan, Laos, Malaysia, Russia, and Turkey.

The 1998 International Religious Freedom Act requires the U.S. government to designate as a CPC any country whose government engages in or tolerates particularly severe violations of religious freedom that are systematic, ongoing and egregious.

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The same act created USCIRF as an independent, bipartisan U.S. federal government commission to advise the president, Congress, and the State Department on international religious freedom. Every year, it publishes a report on the nations it believes should be listed as countries of particular concern by the State Department. This is the 16th report issued by the commission.

Full disclosure: I was appointed to the commission by President Barack Obama a year ago, but the views expressed here do not necessarily represent those of the commission.

Although these countries of particular concern all have serious violations of religious freedom, their causes are varied.

For example, in China and Vietnam, although communist ideology no longer governs the economy, it still opposes religion, especially if it is outside Communist control. Officials fear any popular organization that gathers people together and has respected leaders outside their control.

On the other hand, in Iran and Saudi Arabia, the state is used to suppress any views that do not align with the state’s theological orthodoxy. Members of other religions are few in these countries, so the religious police target dissidents of their own faith. People can be jailed simply for holding different views.

We also see countries where a particular religion is identified by some as part of the national identity. If you are not of that religion, you are not a good citizen.

Thus, in Burma, Buddhist militants attack Muslims (including the Rohingya) and Christians from the Chin, Kachin, Karen, and Karenni ethnic minorities. They are discriminated against as foreigners even if they have been in the country for generations.

Likewise in India, Hindu nationalists are telling Muslims to go to Pakistan and Christians to go to Europe if they are unwilling to become Hindus. For them, Indian and Hindu are synonymous.

In some countries, such as India, the state is not so much persecuting religious minorities as not protecting them from fanatics and mobs. The police often stand aside and watch others attack minorities. Here, politicians are often either afraid of the militants or dependent on them for political support.

In Pakistan, lawyers and judges have been assassinated for defending Christians and other minorities falsely accused of blasphemy. The assailants and those making false accusations are rarely punished.

While religious differences are sometimes at the root of religious conflict, often, the dispute begins as a struggle over power and resources. In the Central African Republic, Nigeria, Syria, and Iraq, certain regions, tribes, or portions of the population felt excluded from political power and the economic benefits of their country.

If the people being left out are from a different religion than the governing elite, then the potential for religious conflict escalates to an explosive level. Religious differences in these conflicts can be manipulated by cynical politicians for political purposes, but bringing religion into a political dispute is like pouring gasoline on a fire.

In Iraq under Saddam Hussein, a Sunni minority lorded over a Shiite majority. After the fall of Saddam more than a decade ago, the new Shiite-dominated government discriminated against Sunnis. Matters were made worse by the rise of the Islamic State group in Sunni areas of Iraq and the civilian casualties resulting from the attempt of Iraqi forces and Shiite militias to destroy it.

In Syria, it was the Sunni majority that suffered under an Alawi governing elite led by the Assad family. What was essentially a political conflict was inflamed by religious passions. In Syria, the Assad government’s suppression of a pro-democratic movement in early 2011 devolved into a calamitous civil war. The conflict between President Bashar al-Assad and his opponents took a decidedly sectarian turn as the government targeted opponents from the country’s Sunni majority and terrorist organizations rushed to exploit the chaos created by conflict.

In Africa, we have seen tribalism, corruption and an unequal distribution of resources at the root of conflict. What are initially political conflicts over resources and power are inflamed by religious passion when regions or tribes following different religions come into conflict. For example, in neglected Muslim areas, those with nothing to lose find attractive the promise that Shariah will end corruption and reduce inequality.

Thus, in Nigeria, a series of corrupt governments have drained the country of its wealth while ignoring the needs of the north. What began in the north as a regional protest soon turned violent and extreme. Religion became intertwined in ethnic, political, economic and social controversies and provided fertile ground for Boko Haram and civil war, which has claimed more than 18,000 lives since 1999.

The same is true in the Central African Republic. After coming to power in March 2013 to fight economic and political marginalization in the northeast, the mostly Muslim Seleka unleashed a reign of terror against civilians generally, and Christians especially. Since September 2013, militias of mostly Christian fighters have responded with massive atrocities of their own, launching brutal assaults against Muslim civilians, committing mass murder, and driving nearly the entire Muslim population from the country.

For the Christians in the Middle East, one of the ironies of their precarious situation is that they were much better off in Iraq under Saddam and in Syria under Assad than they are today. Likewise, things are improving for the Coptic Christians in Egypt under the new military government, even if in general, the human rights situation is terrible.

The complexity of the political, social, economic, and religious situation in CPC countries should warn us against thinking that religious freedom will improve by simply exhorting religious people to be more tolerant. This is important, but not enough.

As long as democracy is seen as a winner-take-all struggle, conflict will be intense and violent, and politicians will exploit religion for their own purposes. The stakes are simply too high for the losers who will be excluded from the jobs and benefits provided by government.

Reducing inequality and corruption will reduce both political and religious tensions.

Most importantly, the police and the judiciary must be seen and experienced as independent of political parties and religious factions. They must serve all the people fairly and equally. If private disputes between citizens of different religions cannot be fairly adjudicated through an unbiased legal system, extrajudicial violence will continue to make matters worse.

Living in a country where religious freedom is enshrined in our political system is a blessing we don’t truly appreciate until we see how believers can be persecuted and oppressed in other countries. Freedom of religion is a human right that needs greater respect around the world. As the beneficiaries of such freedom, we have an obligation to help those who lack such freedom in any way we can.

[Jesuit Fr. Thomas Reese is a senior analyst for NCR and author of Inside the Vatican: The Politics and Organization of the Catholic Church. His email address is treesesj@ncronline.org. Follow him on Twitter: @ThomasReeseSJ.]

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