“Freedom is a never-ending project upon which we must work everyday”, the Catholic Church’s European Justice and Peace Commissions have insisted.
Driving the news
Representatives of 31 Bishops’ Conferences from around Europe working for human rights, peace, reconciliation, development and the care of Creation met in Bratislava October 11-14.
That was for an international workshop on the topic: “Europe Living Together – Lessons From Slovakia: Peace, Justice And Truth After The Fall Of The Iron Curtain”.
In a statement on the workshop’s conclusion, the Commissions warned: “With the fall of the Iron Curtain we believed that freedom was achieved. 30 years later we see that freedom, justice and reconciliation involve more than removing iron curtains”.
The Justice and Peace Commissions said that “truth telling and justice for those who were the victims under the Communist regime is critical to a free society, which respects the inherent value and dignity of each human being”.
In the case of Slovakia, that justice has not yet arrived, the Commissions lamented.
“Former political prisoners suffer due to a lack of acknowledgement of their sacrifices for freedom and these people do not have a liveable pension.
“Further, individuals, who were part of the communist regime, are still shaping society today.
“The lack of legal prosecution of crimes of communism, limits the ability to create a free, just and socially cohesive society”, the Commissions denounced.
Why it matters
The Justice and Peace Commissions said other “barbed wire borders” are still in force in Europe today, apart from the Communist legacy.
Social inequalities, poverty, discrimination against the Roma people, migration and “rising” nationalism also challenge the continent’s “gift of freedom”, the groups warned.
“We are all facing problems with poverty and exclusion, migration and dealing with past injustices”, the Commissions cautioned, before urging:
“We need to work together in solidarity to find common solutions to these challenges of freedom”.
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“As Church we orient ourselves on the belief that every human being is made in the image of God”, the Commissions said.
“Each person must be respected and their freedom protected, especially protecting the freedom of the poor and those who are disadvantaged, excluded and underprivileged”, they stressed.
In the context of the European experience of totalitarianism, they continued, that vision translates into the conviction “that freedom of speech, belief, property and movement are crucial”.
That’s why the Commissions called on Churches, Governments, civic groups and citizens “to promote peace, justice and truth”, not only through individual listening and relationships but also at the level of policy making.
In particular, education and especially the teaching of history, the promotion of critical thinking and the establishment of safe spaces for dialogue “are essential for a free Europe defined by human rights, reconciliation and solidarity”, the Justice and Peace Commissions concluded.