On 19th December 2023, the Czech chapter of UPF hosted the last of a series of three lectures on the pillars of democracy.

This presentation, held at the Peace Embassy, was entitled: “Religious Freedom and Freedom of Belief”.

The guest speaker was Mr. Daniel Herman, minister of Culture of the Czech Republic from 2017 until 2021.

Mr. Herman gave us a profound overview of the history of religious freedom up until the present day, and the following is a summary of his presentation.

Religion has not always been perceived as it is now, but was often used as an instrument in a struggle for power and any opposition was persecuted. He lamented the fact that religion, which should bring peace and reconciliation has often been used as an excuse to wage war such as the appalling 30-year war (1618-1648) between Protestants and Catholics in Europe. The next century brought the French revolution and again religious persecution.
In Czechoslovakia too, the communist regime supressed religion and religious freedom. Religious freedom is the core and root of any freedom, and the suppression of this core freedom is followed by other suppressions.

The 1975 Helsinki Final Act or accords stated that there should be respect for human rights and freedoms, including religious freedom, but sadly communist countries ignored this declaration.
Today, however, the relationship between the Church and State in the Czech Republic is one of cooperation and an ecumenical movement is developing.

Although there is now religious freedom, religion is empty, unattractive and has lost its original function being too weak to resist the secular pressure.

Mr Herman concluded by expressing his liking for the slogan: One family under God and stressing the importance of cooperation between all people of good will and conscience.

The lecture stimulated a lively and interesting discussion.

Report: Dr. Juraj Lajda - English editing: Catriona Valenta

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