In his message for the World Day of Peace (1 Jan 2011) Pope Benedict XVI described religious freedom as “an authentic weapon of peace, with an historical and prophetic mission”.
The Holy Father spoke of religious persecution in Asia, Africa and the Middle East, and thanked governments which are working to alleviate the sufferings of victims of violence and intolerance.
He said persecution on account of faith represents an insult to God and to human dignity, is a threat to security and peace, and an obstacle to the achievement of authentic and integral human development.
“Peace brings to full fruition the deepest qualities and potentials of the human person, the qualities which can change the world and make it better. It gives hope for a future of justice and peace, even in the face of grave injustice and material and moral poverty,” he said.
This year marks the twenty-fifth anniversary of the World Day of Prayer for Peace convened in Assisi in 1986 by Pope John Paul II. On that occasion the leaders of the great world religions testified to the fact that religion is a factor of union and peace, and not of division and conflict.