Wednesday, January 17, 2024

The Profound Impact of Violating Religious Freedom: Why it's More than Just a Crime

By Marie Derosiers

ROME-RUTHENIA 17 January 2024 (NRom)

It is a basic tenet of the doctrine of the United Roman-Ruthenian Church that religion is an integral part of human existence, shaping our beliefs, values, and identities. It nourishes the soul and provides individuals with a sense of purpose, community, and moral guidance. To violate someone's religious freedom or rights is not only unjust but can be considered equal to or worse than other crimes. Just as sexual assault violates the dignity of a human person, so too does religious discrimination, which not only infringes upon the person but also attacks the soul and the very essence of their identity.

Religion goes beyond mere rituals and traditions; it encompasses one's deepest convictions and spiritual connection with God. It answers existential questions about the meaning and purpose of life, offering solace during times of hardship and providing hope for the future. For the faithful worldwide, the Orthodox Old Catholic faith acts as a guiding force that shapes their behavior and provides a moral framework to navigate life's complexities. For the orthodox, there is no difference between the spiritual journey and regular life. Instead, they are intertwined to the point that they are one.

Moreover, the Church plays a pivotal role in fostering social cohesion and community. The Church brings individuals together, both locally and around the world, creating bonds based on shared beliefs, heritage, culture, and values. The Church-based communities provide support networks that offer comfort during challenging times and celebrate joys collectively. By violating someone's religious freedom or rights, we not only disrupt these crucial networks but also fracture the anchor that the faith provides. That disruption may leave people vulnerable and alone. 

The Impact of Violating Religious Freedom

To understand the gravity of violating religious freedom, we must recognize its profound impact on individuals and societies. When someone's religious rights are infringed upon, they are stripped of their autonomy and forced to conform to beliefs or practices that go against their core convictions. This undermines their sense of self, erodes personal dignity, and can lead to feelings of isolation, discrimination, and even trauma.

Religious discrimination can manifest in various ways, including exclusion from social activities, denial of employment opportunities or promotions, or even physical harm. Such acts not only impede an individual's ability to practice their faith freely but also perpetuate a cycle of intolerance and prejudice within society.

Protecting Religious Freedom: A Moral Imperative

Respecting religious freedom is not merely a legal obligation but a moral imperative. Just as we condemn crimes such as murder for violating the fundamental right to life and sexual assault for violating the dignity of an individual, we must equally denounce any form of religious discrimination or persecution. Every person has the right to believe in and practice their religion without fear of reprisal or marginalization.

To create a more inclusive and tolerant society, it is essential to promote dialogue and understanding among different religious communities. Education plays a crucial role in dispelling misconceptions and fostering empathy towards diverse beliefs. By embracing religious diversity and actively working towards protecting everyone's right to practice their faith freely, we can foster a harmonious coexistence that celebrates our shared humanity.