2016-12-15 14:59:00

Vatican: States in the OSCE must protect the rights of Christians

(Vatican Radio) Monsignor Janusz Urbańczyk, the Holy See’s Permanent Respresentative to the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) participated in Wednesday’s Conference on Combating Intolerance and Discriminations of Christians taking place in Vienna.

In his remarks, the Vatican diplomat called upon State authorities to “take into consideration the contributions of religious organizations and of their leaders concerning matters of common good and the development of society, including in the decision-making processes.”

The full text of Msgr. Urbańczyk’s three interventions are below 






14 December 2016


Mr Moderator,

As this is the first time my Delegation takes the floor, I would like to echo the gratitude voiced during the Opening Session by Monsignor Antoine Camilleri, Undersecretary for Relations with States of the Holy See, and thank the German Chairmanship and the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODHIR) for organizing this Conference on combating intolerance and discrimination against Christians. I thank the introducers for their valuable contributions to our discussion, noting especially their presentation of the extensive commitments that all participating States have agreed to in this field.

It should come as no surprise that the issue at hand is important to the Holy See and central to the work of its OSCE Delegation, just as it was when the Holy See dispatched its Delegation to the Helsinki negotiations more than 40 years ago.

The OSCE clearly provides added-value when considering and addressing security in a comprehensive and holistic manner, ranging from military to human security. Therefore, this forum is particularly apt to address the security challenges that Christian communities face today. Thankfully, the OSCE area does not witness blatant and violent persecutions of Christians, as sadly other parts of the world currently do. However, our region is still not free from cases of discrimination against Christians, and ultimately even their security can be at risk. As a matter of fact, manifestations of intolerance, hate crimes and episodes of violence or vandalism against religious places or objects continue to increase, and we certainly thank the ODIHR for its work in this field. Moreover, offending, insulting or attacking Christians because of their beliefs and their values, including in the media and in


public debate, based on a distorted and misinterpreted concept of freedom of expression, often goes uncontested.

Madam Moderator, starting from the Helsinki Final Act of 1975, participating States have agreed through the last 40 years upon a consistent set of commitments aimed at promoting freedom of religion or belief, and at fighting intolerance and discrimination. In this regard, let me recall the most recent 2013 OSCE Kyiv Ministerial Council Decision No. 3 on Freedom of Thought, Conscience, Religion or Belief, which emphasizes the link between security and the full respect for the freedom of thought, conscience, religion or belief. With this decision, participating States have inter alia committed to ensure the right of all individuals to profess and practise religion or belief, either alone or in community with others, and in public or private, and to manifest their religion or belief through teaching, practice, worship and observance, including through transparent and non-discriminatory laws, regulations, practices and policies.

This is an integral part of the wide concept of security that we are addressing today, which includes, but goes far beyond, the physical protection of Christians and of their worship places and objects. It is well known that manifestations of discrimination and intolerance, if not correctly addressed, may end up threatening the security of individuals and may give rise to wider-scale conflict and violence that undermine international stability and security. While praising the efforts of participating States in this regard, we regret that incidents against Christians are still often underestimated and do not receive appropriate attention by the national authorities or the media. The lives of many are being affected only because of their Christian faith, which is itself an essential source for values such as tolerance and equality.

Furthermore, I would like to draw your attention to another worrying trend. In fact, we have to acknowledge some aggressively orchestrated actions, especially in the media and in public discourse, against Christians and all others who express peacefully their religious views, traditions and values. This seems to be true in particular for those who defend human nature from being reduced to mere matter and from the new ideological colonization that invades human thought, under the pretence of virtue, modernity and new attitudes, and which is contemptuous of reality as God has created it. Freedom of expression on these issues seems to be threatened, and believers who share publicly their convictions are often labelled as intolerant or accused of bigotry. In other words, the peaceful contribution of religion to public life seems not only to be rejected, but also contested. In this regard, allow me to reiterate that where fundamental freedoms are questioned, security also can be endangered.

In conclusion, we call upon participating States to act resolutely to protect Christians in their territories and to address properly, including by adequate legislative measures, all cases of intolerance, discrimination, hate crimes, and violent


incidents against Christian individuals, communities and places or objects of worship. Furthermore, we encourage them also to address the new forms of discrimination, including in the mass-media and in public debates, and report and condemn these incidents promptly. The active role of state authorities in protecting and promoting tolerance and non-discrimination can truly assure peace and security, as well as contributing to creating a peaceful environment where Christians, as well as all other religious groups, can freely profess and practise their faith.

In the Ministerial Council meeting in Basel in 2014, participating States, after adopting the Declaration on enhancing efforts to combat anti-Semitism agreed to advance the elaboration of other Ministerial Council Declarations that could effectively combat intolerance and discrimination against Muslims, Christians and members of other religions. It is regrettable that two years later, due to hesitations from some participating States, we seem no closer to making good on our tasking to ourselves. The Holy See recognizes the attempt made by the German Chairmanship prior to the Ministerial Council in Hamburg, and the interest and engagement of so many Delegations, especially those who in good faith took an active part in the discussion, regardless of their views. Despite our lack of success so far - actually because of it - the Holy See calls on the incoming Austrian Chairmanship to devote a meeting of the Human Dimension Committee next year to this Basel tasking.

Thank you, Madam Moderator.






14 December 2016



Mr Moderator,

First of all, the Delegation of the Holy See would like to thank the introducers for their interesting and insightful presentations.

In our pluralistic societies, we recognize the contribution religions make to the shaping of culture, to encouraging dialogue and to fostering mutual understanding. Yet sometimes we witness the marginalization of, and hostility towards, religions and believers, which can constitute intolerance and discrimination and can lead to hatred and violent acts.

A fundamental principle of the Christian vision of things is to seek the common good instead of the merely personal. For Christians, as Pope Francis has written in his Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, “the whole is greater than the part, but it is also greater than the sum of its parts”. [Christians] constantly have to broaden [their] horizons and see the greater good which will benefit us all.”1 This approach, for example, allowed Europe, based on its religious roots, to be capable of reconciling diverse cultural traditions and this approach still allows Christians today to seek mutual understanding, open to an increased sharing of the values of each one.

I would like to stress, in particular, two aspects of the topic proposed for discussion during this Session.

The first one is the key role of education in promoting tolerance and non-discrimination since it addresses the root causes of the phenomenon.

1 Apostolic Exhortation EVANGELII GAUDIUM, No. 235.

In this regard, it is to be hoped that governments and leaders commit themselves to ensure that all can have the minimum spiritual and material means needed to live in dignity, including the right to education and religious freedom.2 In order that education is able to ensure integral human development, it should be used as a means to build bridges. In fact, one of the greatest temptations nowadays is to build walls instead of bridges, and this is sometimes even achieved through education. As Pope Francis said, “the biggest failure [....] is to educate “within the walls.”. Educating within walls: walls of a selective culture, the walls of a culture of safety, the walls of a social sector that is well-off and goes no further ahead.”3

Bearing in mind that this “temptation” is often widespread, in Brussels Ministerial Council Decision 13/06 the Participating States have recognized the value of cultural and religious diversity as a source of mutual enrichment of societies and the importance of integration as a key element to promote mutual respect and understanding. Indeed, religious values should be considered an enriching integral component of a society rather than the expression of a subculture that is not linked with public life. Furthermore, in Ljubljana Ministerial Council Decision 10/05 the Participating States have encouraged public and private educational programmes that promote tolerance and non-discrimination, and raise public awareness of the existence and the unacceptability of intolerance and discrimination, fighting prejudice, intolerance and discrimination against Christians as well as Muslims and other religions. The Holy See firmly believes that education is a tool at our disposal to build bridges for peace and stability and to raise our youth as peace-makers and promoters of true tolerance and non-discrimination.

The second aspect is the crucial role of constructive dialogue, within the public debate in promoting tolerance and non-discrimination against Christians. The misuse of dialogue can create and reinforce patterns of intolerance and discrimination. On the contrary, its wise use can contribute to humanizing relations among people but also among governments, and can foster and develop a correct, mature and respectful public opinion. As Pope Francis has written in his Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, social dialogue is a contribution to peace. In this regard, also interreligious dialogue could be a tool which reinforces mutual understanding and builds confidence in order to reduce intolerance and discrimination.

Finally, to quote Pope Francis once again, “in her dialogue with the State and with society, the Church does not have solutions for every particular issue. Together with the various sectors of society, she supports those programmes which best respond to the dignity of each person and the common good. In doing this, she proposes in a clear way the fundamental values of human life and convictions which can then find expression in political activity.”4

Thank you, Mr Moderator.

  1. Meeting with the members of the General Assembly of the United Nations Organization, Address of the Holy Father, September 2015.
  2. Address of Pope Francis to the participants at the World Congress promoted by the Congregation for Catholic Education, 21 November 2015.
  3. Apostolic Exhortation EVANGELII GAUDIUM, No. 241.





14 December 2016

Some additional recommendations to those already proposed during the previous session of this conference.

  1. We call upon State authorities to take into consideration the contributions of religious organizations and of their leaders concerning matters of common good and the development of society, including in the decision-making processes.
  2. We call upon authorities to respect and protect religious education in society. We also encourage them to support educators, including families, schools, and religious organizations, to develop and strengthen education programmes that can promote mutual understanding between different cultures and religions, as well as universal values such as respect for the inherent dignity of every human being and solidarity.
  3. We invite all actors to engage in an open and constructive dialogue on religious issues. In fact, we seem to witness a certain timidity to undertake a serious dialogue on religious issues and a reluctance to deal with them, which may prevent us from further advancing in our efforts towards mutual understanding.
  4. We express appreciation to the ODIHR for any initiative it may develop aimed at enhancing the security of Christian communities as well as capacity-building programs for improving the prevention and response to hate crimes, including the training on hate crimes for representatives of Christian churches and for Christian Civil Society.

Finally, since ODIHR Director Michael Link has recently confirmed that next year will see concrete progress in the drafting of guidelines for educators on countering intolerance and discrimination against Christians, reflecting guidelines on intolerance and discrimination against other religious groups, the Holy See does not need to repeat its recommendations on this point. However, this delegation thanks the

ODIHR for its decision, and assures the Office of our wholehearted support for the work ahead.






14 December 2016


Mr. Moderator,

At the end of this Conference, my Delegation wishes to thank once again the German OSCE Chairmanship and ODIHR for their efforts in preparing this important event and for providing us all with a platform to discuss the burning issue of intolerance and discrimination against Christians. Many thanks also to introducers for their interesting and insightful presentations.

The previous sessions have given us the opportunity to reflect on various aspects of intolerance and discrimination against Christians as well as more broadly on freedom of religion and belief. A freedom “which shapes the way we interact socially and personally with our neighbors whose religious views differ from our own.”1 As enshrined in the principles of the OSCE, freedom of religion is a key for security, stability and peace, and it allows that mutual understanding which is increasingly important in our globalized world. This session now calls us to reflect on how building reciprocal trust can contribute both to preventing and to responding to, violations of that freedom and episodes of intolerance and discrimination.

The key to prevention is to recognize that religion, with its values and traditions, can significantly contribute to the enrichment and development of society, and to creating a peaceful environment where everybody is free to profess and practice his faith. As Pope Francis has recalled, “religion itself, the religious dimension, is not a subculture, it is part of the culture of every people and every nation. [Religions] remind us of the transcendent dimension of human existence and our irreducible freedom in the face of any claim to absolute power.”2 As a matter of fact, religions have an enduring capacity to open new horizons, to stimulate thought,

  1. Pope Francis, Meeting for religious liberty with the Hispanic Community and other immigrants, 26 September 2015.
  2. Ibidem.

to expand the mind and heart,3 feeding mutual trust among people and communities. We therefore call upon participating States to acknowledge such a role and to enable Christians to fully participate in public life. We also urge authorities to condemn, including with adequate legislative measures, the use of and incitement to violence on religious grounds. In this regard, as Pope Francis has repeatedly affirmed, no violent act, including terrorism, should ever be predicated on religion or belief.

Already emphasized earlier today, we are sadly witnessing that all around the world religious freedom seems not only to be reduced to a marginal sight, but in some cases, is actively suppressed. In the OSCE region, discrimination and intolerance against Christians is increasing, leading to mistrust, hatred and even to episodes of violence against believers and of vandalism against places or objects of worship. This is the reason we convened here today, to address jointly this challenge for our common security area. Moreover, Christians are frequently discouraged from practising their faith and sharing their values, as they are fearful of being attacked or insulted. The forms of intolerance against Christians stem from what Pope Francis calls the “globalization of the technocratic paradigm,”4 which consciously strives to impose uniformity and seeks to eliminate all differences and traditions under the false justification of unity. Thus, religious leaders and believers have not only the right but also the duty to show that it is possible to build a society where “a healthy pluralism which respects differences and values them as such [is a] precious ally in the commitment to defending human dignity [...] and a path to peace in our world.”5

Mr Moderator, to face these challenges and to respond to intolerance and discrimination against Christians it is fundamental to build, or even re-build, trust. First of all, while already praising efforts in this regard, we call upon all participating States to uphold firmly the many commitments related to freedom of religion or belief we have agreed to since the very founding of our Organization. With the Helsinki Final Act of 1975, at a time when the very existence of religion was questioned, we promised “to respect human rights and fundamental freedoms, including the freedom of thought, conscience, religion or belief, for all without distinction as to race, sex, language or religion.”6 After Helsinki, we have developed together several effective tools to make this promise real. Among others, for instance, Kyiv Ministerial Council Decision 3/13 commits us to promote dialogue between religious or belief communities and governmental bodies, and to encourage the inclusion of religious and belief communities in public discussions.

In fact, dialogue is the key to fight intolerance, but to have an effective dialogue we need trust. The Holy See encourages governments, followers of the various religious traditions as well as all other actors in society to engage in an exercise of mutual understanding and to join their voices in calling for tolerance as well as in promoting and living the rediscovery of encounter with others. Only in this

  1. Pope Francis, Apostolic Exhortation EVANGELII GAUDIUM, No. 256.
  2. Pope Francis, Encyclical Letter LAUDATO SI’, No. 106.
  3. Pope Francis, Apostolic Exhortation EVANGELII GAUDIUM, pp. 255 and 257.
  4. Helsinki Final Act.

way, we will be able to achieve that culture of encounter that Pope Francis has invoked many times. My Delegation would also encourage the incoming OSCE Chairmanship and participating States to keep this topic high on the agenda of our Organization.

To conclude, the Holy See reiterates its full and tireless commitment to build trust through frank, open and direct dialogue with State authorities and other religious organizations. “Such dialogue is particularly crucial in our multipolar societies. In fact, if religions are not part of the solutions, they may easily become part of the problem.”7

Thank you, Mr Moderator,

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