A THOUSAND PEOPLE FOR RELIGIOUS LIBERTY IN ROME
2007 marks the second centenary of Giuseppe Garibaldi?s birth (1807), the popular Italian general that helped the country to be united with his 1,000 committed men. Some observers suggested a comparison with the thousand people who gathered in Rome for the Rally for Religious Freedom organised by the Italian Evangelical Alliance (IEA) on the 23rd of June.
In one of Rome's central squares, Evangelicals from different regions and churches got together to advocate for the right of religious freedom in Italy and abroad. IEA had prepared a six-point manifesto summarising the main concerns of the event. As Italian Parliament is discussing a new Law on religious freedom, Evangelicals are concerned that the religious minorities will be even more penalised. In a country where the Catholic Church enjoyes incredible privileges, IEA wanted to stress the need for a balanced separation between Church and state (laicité). Moreover, as media often picture all religious minorities as cults and sects, the Rally underlined the lack of fairness and pluralism in the media sector. Finally, as religious liberty is a main issue for the church world-wide, Evangelicals gave voice to a shared concern for the persecuted church in different countries.
Several MPs gave support to the Rally and some of them came to speak in order to express their appreciation and commitment to the manifesto. Messages of greetings and endorsement coming from World Evangelical Alliance, European EA and various national EAs were read during the event. Nicola Legrottaglie, a Juventus football player, himself an Evangelical, came to tell his testimony and to support the initiative. Some representatives of churches and Christian agencies spoke on behalf of the persecuted church. Roberto Mazzeschi, president of IEA, said that ?Evangelicals do not want privileges; they want religious fredoom and equal opportunities for all?.
A petition was signed and sent to Parliament, Governement officials and media leaders.
As a result of the Rally, the Parliament Commission has accepted few amendements which IEA proposed for the new Law on religious liberty. The text is now due for plenary discussion. Moreover, IEA was invited to another initiative for religious freedom which took place in Rome on 4th July and was organised by Corriere della Sera, the main newspaper of the country. Mazzeschi was also invited to speak on behalf of Evangelicals. This event had an outstanding media coverage.
On the whole, then, the Rally has had a positive impact, both for Italian Evangelicals who often find it diffult to express their concerns publicly, and for public opinion in general who is often ignorant of the presence of Evangelicals in Italy.
For video and pictures of the Rally: www.alleanzaevangelica.org
Italian Evangelical Alliance
Vicolo S. Agata 20, 00153 Roma www.alleanzaevangelica.org