August 22 marks the International United Nations Day to commemorate the victims of Acts of Violence Based on Religion or Belief. On this day, tears well in the eyes of people while remembering their beloved ones who lost their lives because they strongly believed in the freedom of religion or belief, freedom of opinion and expression, and the right to peaceful assembly.
On this occasion, it is important to invoke the fatal violence conducted by terrorists in some African countries, namely in the Sahel region, neighboring countries, as well in southwest of the continent, including the spiral of violence in Nigeria as in June 2022, where 40 innocent people were massacred in a Catholic Church and at least 18 priests were kidnapped in 2022, four of whom were murdered.
On this day, we recall the violence that has been perpetrated against minorities in Iraq and the blowing up of places of worship in Iraq, Egypt and Sri Lanka. Let us also remember the suffering of the Catholic Church in Nicaragua where the Catholic Church suffered over 190 attacks and desecrations, including arson in the Cathedral of Managua, assaults on clergy, the closure of Catholic media, and the expulsion of Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity.
At the Sunday Angelus, August 21, Pope Francis expressed his sorrowful concern as tensions continue to rise in Nicaragua. He said, “I am following closely, with concern and sorrow, the situation in Nicaragua, which involves both people and institutions. I would like to express my conviction and my hope that, through open and sincere dialogue, the basis for a respectful and peaceful coexistence can still be found.”
In countries like Mexico and Colombia, as well as in Argentina and Chile, extremist groups seek to silence the voices of Church leadership and restrict the free expression of faith groups in the public square. Furthermore, two priests in Burkina Faso and two in Nigeria, more than 10 priests remain missing in China.
On this day, while recalling acts of violence based on religion or belief, it is of cardinal issue to note that these rights are enshrined in articles 18, 19 and 20 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Upholding these rights plays an important role in the fight against all forms of intolerance and of discrimination based on religion or belief.
These articles should be highlighted on this day, as well as every day, to ensure human freedom of choice in every respect of life. It is also important to reconsider the Document on Human Fraternity for World Peace and Living Together signed by Pope Francis and the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar Ahmed Tayeb on 4 February 2019 in Abu Dhabi, which is concerned with how different faiths can live peaceably in the same world, and it is meant to be a guide on advancing a "culture of mutual respect".
It is shameful that in the 21st century, people still shed the blood of their brethren for trivial and incomprehensive reasons. When will humans rise to the responsibly and realize the grisly crimes being committed against their brethren with whom they should work hand-in hand for the progress of humanity?
Lord Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace said, "I have said these things to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)