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Walls and Religious Freedom in 5 Points

7 Aug, 2017

Good fences make good neighbors, so goes a popular saying. To what extent does this backyard wisdom apply to religious freedom today?

There are those who argue that walls are necessary to kept threats out. Others argue that the best way to overcome differences is to build bridges to those who are different and invite them in.

On August 25, 2017, Brian Grim, president of the Religious Freedom & Business Foundation, will address this question in the following 5 points during The Rimini Meeting, Europe’s largest regular summer gathering of people.*

1) Walls and Religious Freedom: Government and Social

There are two main ways religious freedom is inhibited today. The first is by government laws, actions and policies. The second is by prejudices, discrimination and violence by individuals and groups in society. See the latest data.

2) Walls that Fell: Iron and Bamboo

The Berlin Wall and the Bamboo Curtain are two walls that have fallen in living memory. In the case of the Berlin Wall, barriers are gone. In the case of China’s Bamboo Curtain, new walls have emerged such as its so-called Great Fire Wall, the nationwide internet censoring program. Despite the high level of government controls in China, religion has grown in the country. How is this possible? Read the story.

3) A Wall that Endures: The DMZ

The Korean War did not end, it came to a stalemate. The Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) separates a divided Korea. South Korea is one of the world’s most religiously diverse and free countries. Religious Freedom does not exist in the North. Is there any hope for religious freedom in the North? Read an update from the DMZ.

4) Walls for Security

From Israel to the U.S. southern border, governments and societies erect walls they argue are necessary for security. What impact do these walls have on religious freedom? Research, however, clearly shows that religious freedom leads to less conflict and more peace.

5) Walls of the Human Heart

There are many parables showing how the human heart can be the biggest wall against accepting others – a fundamental characteristic of religious freedom. What such parables as the Good Samaritan and the Woman at the Well have to say about religious freedom today? Read Grim’s comments at the Vatican on the role of love in religious freedom.

*The Rimini Meeting – or to give it its official title ‘the Meeting for the Friendship Amongst Peoples’, is a huge social/political/economic/cultural conference run by the Catholic organisation Communion and Liberation.

The Rimini Meeting

Held annually since 1980, the Rimini Meeting attracts over 800,000 people over a period of a week in August to attend talks on a wide range of subjects; from the particularly religious focussed talks through to discussions on Europe, the Economy, social networks etc. It’s no exaggeration to say that whatever your interests are, you’ll probably find a talk at the Meeting which addresses it.

The Meeting always has a stellar cast of panelists – both Italian and International – with government ministers, presidents, prime-ministers all rubbing shoulders with journalists, film-makers, and academics. The event is also organised with an international audience in mind, with simultaneous translation available for most of the large panel events.

Apart from a few people who work full-time for its planning, the festival is entirely staged, managed and dismantled by about 4000 volunteers (mostly university students) coming from all over Italy and other countries of the world.

The meeting has had about 800,000 attendees per year in the last editions. Several prominent people from science, culture, society and politics give lectures at the meeting, including Nobel prize recipients, religious authorities (the Pope participated in 1982), politicians and ministers (the Italian prime minister participated a few times), international authorities (Tony Blair and others), writers, musicians (Riccardo Muti participated).

After the meeting in Rimini, other similar events have been organized: among these, the New York Encounter, an event held in New York in January every year and the Cairo Meeting, held in Cairo (Egypt).