Two weeks ago, in Germany, there was the General Assembly of the European Evangelical Alliance for 2012 taking place: Gorgeous location, excellent speakers and presenters, beautiful people. I was there as a representative of TWR Europe, associate member of the EEA. There were some very good topics covered, but one got my full attention – Christians in Europe: public life.
Three quick reasons: logically, religious liberty is prior to other political rights – freedom of speech, and freedom of assembly. You only want to get together (freedom of assembly) with people to whom you want to say something. Freedom of assembly assumes freedom of speech. Equally, freedom of speech assumes freedom of conscience. You want to speak of things that matter to you based on the dictates of conscience. Religious liberty, freedom of conscience, is the first liberty. It is not liberty for the religious. It is the primary human right.
Secondly, religious liberty is the key to civil society. We understand today societies are healthy if average citizens can join – volunteer, give, participate – a civil society, and civil society flourishes when religious liberty flourishes and people are free to do that.
Thirdly, freedom of conscience is fundamental to social harmony. The challenge today is to maintain diversity. The challenge today is to have diversity and to create harmony but also to create liberty. And the key to that is religious liberty or freedom of conscience.