“In years past, popes have typically used the speech to diplomats as a sort of foreign policy panorama, surveying major global concerns such as economic justice, war and peace, the environment, and equity in diplomatic relations. This year, however, Benedict XVI was focused like a laser beam on religious freedom, and in particular with attacks on Christians” writes John Allen in the NCR

Benedict pointedly added that it’s not enough to guarantee freedom of worship. Bishops in the region frequently say that while Islamic states generally allow Christians to celebrate religious rituals, they do not respect freedom of conscience – for instance, the right of a Muslim to convert to Christianity without legal fallout. Further, they say, Christians are often discriminated against in housing, employment, and civic life.

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