Cardinal Timothy Dolan:
According to the Pew Research Center’s Forum on Religion & Public Life, 75% of the world’s population lives in countries with high governmental or societal restrictions on religion. Christians face harassment in the largest number of countries, followed by Muslims and Jews.
This is not only terrible for believers, it’s unhealthy for societies. Brian Grim at the Pew Forum notes that “restriction of religious freedom correlates with diminished wellbeing and violent social conflict.”
Research supports Pope Francis’ contention that “the shared protection of [freedom of religion] is also a guarantee of the entire community’s growth and development.”
Religious freedom is a good in its own right, and it also fosters the common good. It enables people of faith to contribute to their communities. We see faith in action in schools, clinics and humanitarian assistance projects throughout the world. Faith inspires people to serve their neighbors, enriching the public life we all share.
Faith communities are also vital participants in public debates and often help hold governments accountable to their people. From neighborhood parish schools to faith-based soup kitchens and immigrant resource centers, religious ministries are essential to the social fabric.
And religious freedom reinforces other freedoms — of conscience, of the press and of assembly, to name just a few.
You’d think that governments would encourage religious liberty as a way to help their societies advance. But as Pope Francis has said, “In the world today, freedom of religion is more often talked about rather than put into practice.” Instead, many restrict religion and feed societal animosities toward religious minorities in the name of “good order” and control.
The result is too often violence and social conflict.