The appalling and unacceptable acts of arson are sweeping across religious temples throughout the world; in particular, the recent cases of Catholic parishes and chapels being burned down, which make us reflect on the rise of religious intolerance.
Pursuant to Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, everyone has the freedom to manifest one’s religion or beliefs, and this right is necessary to protect public safety. As a member of the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), the SSVP also advocates these same principles.
Furthermore, in many places around the world, religious persecution and prejudice against Christian beliefs are commonplace, thus increasing the number of refugees.
We, as members of the Society of Saint Vincent de Paul, committed to charity, solidarity, respect and life, cannot stand idle when confronted with these attacks that are occurring in different parts of the world … attacks which include acts of arson, vandalism, desecration, looting and mockery.
Obviously, we are all Church; nevertheless, Christian buildings are essential for the community to express their faith, where sacraments are celebrated, where the preaching of God’s word is heard from faithful ministers. These are the buildings where ministries, initiatives and services are fostered, just like the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, which promotes its events and meetings. Hence, preserving churches is safeguarding the faith.
The International General Council of the Society of St Vincent de Paul condemns any attack on the Catholic faith, especially these criminal fires, and expects that perpetrators will be prosecuted, in accordance with the applicable law of each country.
Attacks on churches may cause extensive damage; but this will never undermine the faith or extinguish the flame of Christ which stirs the hearts of all God’s children. Social and popular manifestations are welcome, provided that they are peaceful and respectful.
Let us pray for the conversion of sinners and their redemption, and may God always protect Their Church, delivering us from evil. “That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my Church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” (Matt 16:18).
Fellow member Renato Lima de Oliveira
16th President General
Society of St. Vincent de Paul