Rome, Italy—Dr. Marco Respinti, a leading advocate for religious freedom, was the speaker at the second UPF-Italy Peace Forum of 2023.
The title of his presentation, given on February 27, 2023, was "Religion and Belief: The First Human Freedom, Including Political Freedom."
Dr. Respinti, a journalist, essayist and lecturer, is the editor-in-chief of both the Journal of CESNUR (Center for Studies on New Religions), an academic publication on new religions, and Bitter Winter, a journal on religious freedom and human rights in China.
He is also a UPF Ambassador for Peace and has attended several UPF events, including international ones.
Carlo Zonato, the president of UPF-Italy, was the moderator of the webinar.
Dr. Respinti began by quoting Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights:
Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance of rites.
Dr. Respinti continued: “There is no full public freedom of the person unless it starts from the princely freedom, which is to be able freely, sovereignly—without any intrusion, without any interference from anybody, from any private group—to set up the foundational relationship, the one that grounds all the rest of the relationships between self and … the Being that we hold to be the Creator … that defines the rules of the universe and whatever, that is God as Greek philosophy defines it.
“Why is this the most fundamental foundational relationship? Because behind this question there is no other. All faiths, all religions, all creeds, whatever they call God, even when they don't call Him or give Him different names or different definitions, evidently hold Him to be the initial and ultimate principal and final issue. And if it is principal and ultimate, from the setting of the relationship between self and this entity, then derives the way human beings set their lives. It derives morality, it derives criteria of right, wrong, good, evil, how to achieve good, how not to do evil, and so on and so forth. …
“I want to believe in God and to believe that God, whatever name I give Him, exists or does not exist, and to be free to draw all the practical, concrete, material, organizational, social, political consequences, subject to the limits we were saying before: natural law and existing law. If I have this guarantee, if the state guarantees me this, I can live my life peacefully, I can contribute to the common good peacefully. … I have the opportunity to make common stretches, common path stretches with different cultural and religious sensitivities, even with those on religious discourse who conclude differently, because I recognize the universality of this first and fundamental freedom.”