Peru: Politicians Support Concept of Religious Freedom as a Tool for Peace

News November 2001

November 28, 2001. Lima, Peru. Speaking at the inaugural meeting of the International Congress of Religious Liberty in Lima, two Peruvian congressmen spoke strongly in favor of the vital importance of religious freedom, particularly as a way to promote peace and to avoid religious violence.

Member of Congress Walter Alejos commented that "as a Christian, I believe in religious freedom as a God-given gift and an essential instrument of peace and reconciliation in a democracy." Consequently, he was delighted to attend and support the International Congress.

His colleague in the Peruvian Congress, Dr. Antero Flores also affirmed that "the divine creator has given religious freedom to his universe, and allowed diverse beliefs." In consequence, he added, we must support policies that are "tolerant and non-discriminatory." He also referred to the 1981 United Nations Declaration on the Elimination of All Forms of Intolerance and of Discrimination Based on Religion or Belief, and noted that "there must be no preference for any one religion since this is a form of discrimination, intolerance and exclusion," a significant comment in a country where one church is dominant.

Also attending the Congress, Ambassador Juan Alvarez Vita, spoke strongly about the need for tolerance and non-discrimination, and that if this was taken seriously then it would lead for example to "the need to revise the Concordat between Peru and the Holy See since some aspects of this agreement are in conflict with the Declaration on Human Rights." Alvarez was formerly Peru's ambassador to the United Nations.

The Congress, organized by the International Religious Liberty Association (IRLA), brought together government representatives, leaders of religious communities and advocates of religious freedom from Argentina, Brazil, Mexico, Chile, Ecuador as well as the host country, Peru. Heading the IRLA international delegation was secretary general Dr. John Graz.

"We are delighted to host such an important international forum for religious freedom," commented IRLA-Peru advisor Melchor Ferreyra. "The world of today is rightly concerned with religious issues, particularly intolerance and religious violence. We wish to do our part to advance the cause of religious liberty and dialogue between religious groups, affirming tolerance and mutual respect."

The International Congress has generated much media interest and has raised the public profile of the urgent need for the promotion of human rights and freedom of conscience, Ferreyra concluded. [Jonathan Gallagher/IRLA News]

Inaugural meeting

Members of Peruvian Congress Antero Flores and Walter Alejos

Ambassador Juan Alvarez Vita

150-strong audience
Children's choir performs