‘Can’t we all just get along?’

Pope Benedict’s message for this World Day of Peace is about the necessity of religious freedom, and the absolute human right to either choose or reject a faith, seek or deny God.

The message, which also refers to the Holy Land, goes on to say that“Christians are the religious group which suffers most from persecution on account of its faith”. It laments the fact that religious freedom continues to be threatened by an intolerant secularism that is opposed to every expression of religion, by fundamentalism, secularism’s mirror image, by the politicisation of religion and the imposition of state religions, and by the “illusion that moral relativism provides the key for peaceful coexistence [when in fact it] is actually the origin of divisions and the denial of the dignity of human beings.”

In fact, for Benedict XVI religious freedom, like other human rights, neither depends on the recognition of the state nor is it a concession by the state because it pre-exists the state, and is based on the natural dignity of the person.

It is a “path to peace” since the recognition of the inalienable human right to seek or deny God and adapt one’s behaviour to the truth gives a community the ethical basis on which it can search a positive and full development that is respectful of mankind. Religion’s “public dimension” stems from that, so does the positive contribution it can make to social, economic and political life.

Late in 2010, I was already focusing more of my own attention and efforts on the cause of religious freedom in the world, as the foundation of ‘the new humanism’ Benedict has long talked about. It’s one of the two big humanitarian issues I’m committing myself to in the year ahead. So I was really glad to see this message for January 1, 2011. And hopefully, all the days that follow.

‘Let there be peace on earth, and let it begin with me.’

Sheila Liaugminas

Sheila Liaugminas is an Emmy award-winning Chicago-based journalist in print and broadcast media. Her writing and broadcasting covers matters of faith, culture, politics and the media....