The Basis of Religious Liberty

The Basis of Religious Liberty

The Basis of Religious Liberty

The Basis of Religious Liberty

Excerpt

Religious freedom is an ecumenical question of primary importance in itself and specially in the world today. As the General Secretary said at Rolle, 'it ought to be unnecessary to underline that the World Council intends to continue the struggle for religious liberty, for we have given sufficient proofs that we consider such liberty essential for the sake of the Christian witness' (Minutes and Reports of the Fourth Meeting of the Central Committee,Rolle, August 1951, p. 62). The WCC is fully entitled to protect and promote religious liberty. Moreover, it is one of the main problems which the WCC has the right and the duty to submit to thorough study. The first practical conclusion to be drawn from this obvious truth is that the WCC should not place this problem on the outer fringe of its main activities, merely dealing with it piecemeal as occasion arises.

The WCC must be absolutely clear about its ultimate aim: 'ut unum sint'. But the only way to attain this goal is by freedom in charity. The Archbishop of Canterbury has said very rightly: 'That [a united Church] will not come as long as our Christian faith is not strong enough to bear each other's differences and to refuse to reduce them by force.' Intolerance is found in the antipodes of unity and charity. Hence one of the most important aims of the WCC must be to promote universal religious freedom in which alone an atmosphere of unity and love is possible.

However, the ecumenical movement, in caring for religious liberty, not only considers the churches which belong to it, but it has regard for and seeks to serve all Christians, including those who stand outside it, and even all men, non-religious as well as religious ones.

This care for religious freedom is all the more urgent and necessary in that freedoms in general and religious liberty in particular are being abridged in the world today and may continue to be so. Therefore, it is our duty as Christians and as men to claim and to defend this fundamental liberty.

Our first and foremost problem is to investigate what we . . .

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