International Religious Conference Draws High-level Participation

Dr. Ma, mayor of Taipei, addresses the conference.

Taipei, Taiwan… Speaking at the commencement of a high-level international religious freedom conference in Taipei, Dr. Ying-jeou Ma, mayor for the city, spoke of the vital importance of religion and freedom of conscience to 200-plus delegates.

“Religion is supposed to be a guarantee of happiness and peace, but unfortunately things are often very different and human rights are often violated,” said Dr. Ma. “In order to live together, religions must work together. Across the strait (in mainland China) important progress has been made in the area of religious freedom, but there remains much to be achieved. Religion is not emphasized, and people are not so free to worship. Since religion plays such a vital role in society, I welcome your conference to Taipei with your theme of Religious Freedom, Human Rights, and Security.”

Speaking on the second day of the Conference, August 30, Cardinal Paul Shan declared, “We must tell tyrants to respect religious freedom. While we cannot expect them to change overnight, over time things can improve,” he added.

The highest representative of the Catholic Church in the area, Cardinal Shan was one of several religious leaders addressing the International Religious Liberty Association’s (IRLA) regional conference, which took place August 30 and 31. He urged people of faith to work together for religious freedom and peace as a top priority.

“World permanent peace is built on truth, forgiveness, reconciliation, and concrete actions of love and compassion, but not on violence and war,” Shan concluded.

Participants of the IRLA Conference.

Echoing the same theme, IRLA secretary-general, Dr. John Graz, said that “Religious Freedom, Human Rights, and Security are focused on the importance of maintaining such fundamental freedoms as a major contribution to global security. We have to admit that, without a strong involvement of religious groups in dialogues, the natural long-term answer to the war against terrorism may be a mutual defiance between religions, and a suspicious attitude from the state towards religious minorities.”

Graz further explained that the purpose of the conference was to highlight the importance of maintaining the right to religious freedom as part of a stable and secure society. “Freedom should not be sacrificed on the altar of national security.”

“Religious liberty is important because man’s dignity is based on freedom of conscience,” said Jairyong Lee, IRLA president for the Northern-Asian Pacific Region. “Unfortunately, this fundamental human right has been exploited in different parts of the world, and many have suffered from the loss of religious liberty. Even today, many are struggling to defend religious freedom.”

IRLA vice president Eugene Hsu (originally from Taiwan), observed that “we have religious freedom here, though we still have some obstacles, so it is good to hold this conference in Taipei. With so much discrimination going on in many places, and with countries where religious freedom was well-established now restricting liberties after 9/11, we need to work together to promote and defend religious liberty.”

Taipei’s population of over 2.7 million is made up of a mixture of Buddhist, Confucian, Taoist, and Christian. Since 1983, the IRLA has worked to promote religious freedom and tolerance, and has affiliates in over 70 countries. For more information about the IRLA, visit