06/15/2012 United States (CNA) - The growing perception of religion as a threat to a free society is leading to persecution of believers around the world, according to speakers at a recent meeting of the U.S. bishops.
“Religious liberty is in global crisis,” said Thomas F. Farr, director of the Religious Freedom Project at the Berkley Center for Religion Peace and World Affairs at Georgetown University.
He explained that the crisis has “enormous consequences for the Church, the United States, the fate of democracy worldwide, the defeat of religion-based terrorism and the cause of international peace and justice.”
Farr spoke June 13 to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops as part of a two-hour discussion on both domestic and international religious freedom concerns.
Chaldean Auxiliary Bishop Shlemon Warduni of Baghdad, president of Caritas Iraq, also spoke at the bishops’ gathering, discussing the plight of Christians in the Middle East.
He offered accounts of priests being kidnapped, tortured and held for ransom, as well as churches being attacked and worshipers being killed.
Farr cautioned the U.S. bishops that a negative view of religion is leading to a continued erosion of religious freedom around the world, with disastrous consequences.
“Both history and modern scholarship demonstrate that a robust system of religious liberty in both law and culture is indispensable to individual human dignity and to the flourishing of civil society and nations,” he said.
He pointed to a Pew Research study indicating that 70 percent of the world’s population lives in a country where religious freedom is seriously restricted.
And the problem “is getting worse,” he said, citing studies indicating that “social hostilities” towards religious minorities are rising in many areas, including much of Europe.
This view is also growing in the United States, he cautioned, as religious freedom is increasingly being depicted as the mere right to worship privately.
Farr argued that American policy under both Republican and Democratic administrations is failing to alleviate infringements upon religious freedom around the world.
He observed that the current U.S. State Department has devoted “far more energy” to supporting gay agendas overseas than to addressing religious liberty concerns.