Bruce J. Casino
International Coalition for Religious Freedom
delivered at the
International Coalition for Religious Freedom Conference on
"Religious Freedom and the New Millenium"
Tokyo, Japan May 23-25, 1998
Mainly, I just want to thank each of you for attending. I want to thank, in particular, those who spoke to us, who prepared their remarks so carefully, and gave us such powerful and insightful presentations that really have helped us to better understand the situation of religious freedom, not only in our host country, Japan, but around the world. Your efforts and presentations are very valuable. We look forward to publishing them and disseminating them across the globe, because they are full of insight and wisdom and deserve to be heard.
I also want to thank the chairman of our organizing committee here in Japan, Professor Irie, who was so gracious in serving in that capacity and helped organize our activities for this conference.
We are quite serious about focusing on religious freedom across the globe and across denominational lines, going beyond particular sectarian concerns. To that end, we have a Web site that we believe is the leading site in the globe on the issue of religious freedom. It has reports on the religious freedom situation in over 100 countries. We also publish a newsletter that focuses on many issues. The most recent issue focused on the new Austrian legislation creating a formula for discrimination. We invite you to submit articles for that publication and items of news and interest.
We are, of course, involved in organizing conferences. And we expect there will be more conferences, including one in Europe next week, one in Latin America, perhaps one in Africa, and in the CIS nations so that we will be touching on each of the six regions that we are concerned about across the globe.
We have now developed a beginning understanding of religious freedom principles and how to combat violations of religious freedom. Our staff stands ready to help work on solving those problems with you on individual situations. So if you believe we can be of any assistance, we are delighted to be involved in assisting you, providing information, writing letters, or otherwise attempting to assist. We anticipate having some sort of advisory committee formed in each region, and we will look forward to your participation on those committees. We are also interested, as we explained, in going beyond simple tolerance to celebrating religious freedom, and that includes promoting dialogue between persons of different faiths so that we can understand each other and appreciate each other’s faith perspectives. That includes not simply dialogue with majority faiths. We also believe that minority faiths that are often the focus of religious discrimination should dialogue and work together. As Benjamin Franklin said at the time of the American Declaration of Independence, “If we don’t hang together, we may all hang separately.”
We also hope to do some work with the media and with governments to provide objective information and educate people about international human rights situations that so often are ignored.
Finally, I would like to thank you each of you attending this conference and taking the time to focus on this very, very important issue that it seems is getting increased international attention. It is an issue that goes to the very fundamentals of what it is to be a human being. To be able to follow one’s conscience, one’s spiritual impulse, is the most basic of human freedoms. We thank you all for being involved for promoting that freedom, and we look forward to working with you in the months and years ahead in this great cause.