Romanian Campaigner Makes Religious Freedom Relevant

Mr. Viorel Dima (R), with IRLA DSG Dr. Jonathan Gallagher

February 26, 2001. Silver Spring, MD, USA [IRLA News] On a visit to the US, Romanian religious freedom campaigner Viorel Dima highlighted a major new initiative to promote the issue in his country.

Director of the National Association for the Defense of Conscience and Liberty (an organization associated with the IRLA), Dima said that this traveling program was essential to counter opposition to religious freedom in Romania.

"Religious liberty is an essential part of society," commented Dima. "If awareness of this vital subject is not continually promoted, then it can easily be lost. That is why we hold so many meetings in conjunction with local councils and other organizations around the country. We use public halls, schools, even an Orthodox monastery as venues and invite prominent local people to attend. We have teachers, policemen, physicians as well as local government officials who work together with us in promoting the importance of freedom of conscience and religious observance as part of a democratic society."

The meetings of the Association include presentations by specialists from the Romanian Academy, the Ministry of Religious Affairs, jurists, and members of religious groups. Discussion includes the role and involvement of churches in social harmony, religious freedom and international legislation, and the importance of freedom of conscience and human rights in European integration.

Other religious freedom and human rights groups are also involved, and a network of supporters of religious freedom is being developed, says Dima.

"We need to work together to support the progress made by the government in instituting religious freedom as a fundamental human right," he adds. "There is much pressure from majority religious organizations on government to support the concept of a state religion, and there is also concern over some statements made by government representatives that call into question the commitment to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, for example. A draft law on religious matters including an 'anti-sect' provision is still on the table, a law that needs to be considered very carefully and seriously."

Some twenty of these traveling religious freedom promotions have been held in the past year, with many more planned. [Jonathan Gallagher]