Freedom of Worship – Concept, history, importance and threats

We explain what religious freedom is and why it is important in today’s society. Also, its history and where it is threatened.

freedom of worship
Freedom of worship implies that no one is discriminated against for their religious beliefs or practices.

What is freedom of worship?

Freedom of worship or freedom of religion is one of the fundamental rights of humanity, which allows everyone to freely choose and profess their religion, mystical beliefs or their atheism or agnosticism, without ever being a victim of oppression, discrimination or forced conversion.

Recognized in numerous international treaties and documents, including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (art. 18), freedom of worship goes far beyond mere religious tolerance, since it is not simply a matter of supporting others to practice their beliefs. beliefs in a separate enclosure, but of guarantee through the laws and the State that such practices are free, peaceful and free from persecution.

The latter is, of course, possible to a greater extent in secular states (that is, without official religion), despite the fact that even in those cases there is a majority religion, transmitted generationally and strongly anchored in tradition. But this does not mean that the State should take positions to favor one Church over another, but quite the opposite: in the West religion and worship are private, personal, intimate matters.

Unfortunately, this reality it is not always fulfilled in all countries of the world, and there are still numerous cases of crimes committed against religious minorities, especially in theocracies and nations of fundamentalist culture. Freedom of worship is often considered equivalent to freedom of conscience, that is, the freedom to think what one wants and to have the opinion one wishes to have.

Freedom of worship is common among modern liberal democracies, especially in the West. However, in earlier times the persecution of the Jews, for example, was common currency in Europe. Furthermore, in the Middle Ages the “holy” wars against Islam sent thousands of Muslims and Christians to their deaths.

That is not to mention the work of forced conversion and punishment and torture carried out by the Holy Catholic Inquisition in Europe and America, persecuting any form of unofficial worship, considered at that time heretical, sinful and contrary to divine law.

According to the report on religious freedom prepared by the United States Government (2007), today religious freedom is under threat in countries such as Burma, China, North Korea, Iran, Sudan, Eritrea, Uzbekistan and Saudi Arabia, and in to a lesser extent in countries such as Afghanistan, Iraq, Israel, Laos, Pakistan, Russia, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Turkmenistan and Vietnam, despite relative progress made by their governments.