Dr Philpott on religious freedom and world affairs

Daniel Philpott, Notre Dame

In a symposium organized by Dr Farr on Religion’s Role in World Affairs (see this ), colleague Daniel Philpott of the University of Notre Dame made the following claims about religious freedom:

“The first proposition is that authoritarian regimes who suppress religious freedom—that is, undifferentiated, or integralist regimes—encourage terrorism. Their control of religious actors prevents the political participation and competition that fosters compromise and moderation.”

“The second proposition is that democratic regimes who allow religious freedoms moderate terrorism, or at least the sort of anti-systemic extremism with which terrorism is associated.”

“The third proposition is that religious actors who were once undemocratic can over time become more democratic. The great historical example is the Catholic Church and its evolution towards an embrace of religious freedom and human rights more broadly at the Second Vatican Council. Today, Turkey’s Justice and Development Party and Indonesia’s Nahdlatul Ulama have trod a good ways down a similar path in the Islamic world.”

“The fourth proposition is that the same actors can even help to bring about democratic regimes. In the Catholic case, once churches in Poland, Brazil, and the Philippines embraced human rights and religious freedom they became motors of democratization. Similarly, the two parties just mentioned have not only evolved internally but have pressured their countries to become more democratic.”

“A policy of great pressure towards democratization, the inclusion of religious freedom in democratization, and the “constructive engagement” of religious actors might well promote democracy, stability, and the reduction of terrorism better than an unreflective presumption for alliances with authoritarian regimes who suppress their religious citizens.”.

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