Italian government appoints first envoy for Freedom of Religion with focus on Christians

16 Jun 2023

The plight of persecuted Christians around the world is to be given particular attention by Italy, after the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs, Antonio Tajani, established a new role of special envoy for the promotion of religious freedom.

In a round table meeting in Italy’s Chamber of Deputies in Rome on “Religions, conflicts and peacebuilding in contemporary global crises”, Tajani announced that Davide Dionisi, would be stepping into the role. He is the former head of the foreign desk of L’Osservatore Romano, the daily newspaper of Vatican City State, which reports on the activities of the Holy See.

In remarks quoted by the Italian newspaper, Libero Quotidiano, Tajani said “the Government supports with determination the importance of interreligious dialogue and favours the construction of a shared action that puts the human person, his dignity and respect for fundamental rights at the centre.”

“The appointment of a Special Envoy for Freedom of Religion and Belief by the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs is an important action of the noblest political kind”, commented Marco Respinti, Director of “Bitter Winter: A Magazine on Religious Liberty and Human Rights”.

Speaking to Premier Christian News, Mr Respinti added:

“It goes to the heart of what really matters, is an example to all, and will surely contribute to doing justice for the suffering, especially Christians who are heavily persecuted because of their faith.”

Marcela Szymanski of persecution charity, Aid to the Church in Need, welcomed the announcement, which she said should be followed by others.

“It is absolutely extraordinary that 6 years after Hungary created a department in charge of persecuted Christians, another country finally joins them in acknowledging this reality. Not one single other nation with a Christian majority has dared”, she told Premier.

Last month, the International Religious Freedom or Belief Alliance released a statement on the state of worldwide persecution of Christians. Published on 17 May, it said:

“We note with grave concern that reports of intolerance and harassment against Christians around the world is increasing and more widespread. Members of Christian communities, or those wishing to join, face limitations on their right to freedom of religion or belief in every world region. In conflict and insecure environments they have suffered from repeated terrorist and violent attacks by mobs and extremists.”

Reflecting on the declaration, Szymanski commented:

“The IRFBA statement denouncing the persecution of Christians was signed by 20 UN members. It is the most persecuted religion in the world, and finally more than one country is putting action after their words!”

“We do hope that the new Special Envoy will have the material tools to implement the fundamental task his office is to perform worldwide”, continued Respinti.

“Religious liberty is a most fundamental human right, second in hierarchy only to the right to life of every person”, he said.

“It is also the first political human right: in fact, it is not only the liberty of believing, which no one can of course take away from any person, but also the liberty of behaving socially and politically. We all know how much this can be curtailed and denied by totalitarian, authoritarian, tyrannical regimes and also in democracies”, he added.

“It is therefore important that countries which cherish life and liberty take religious freedom seriously, both at a political level and also internationally”, he concluded.

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