Elder Sitati delivers a key address on religious freedom in Rwanda

Promoting Religious Freedom among Religions and Nations

News Release

Elder Joseph Sitati, a General Authority Seventy of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and a member of the Africa Southeast Area Presidency, has delivered a key address on religious freeom in the Rwandan captital Kigali.

Elder Sitati was among more than a dozen high-level speakers at the 3rd All Africa Religious Liberty Congress attended by participants from more than 30 African countries. It was held on September 13-15, 2018.

Elder Sitati spoke about promoting religious freedom among religions and nations.

"At its root, religious freedom is about helping individuals and communities flourish; it is about allowing them to live out their highest ideals," said Elder Sitati in his remarks.

"We human beings, are complex spiritual creatures, with strong yearnings for self-expression and to be understood. All of us, in one way or another, strive for the freedom of the soul. This is our nature as children of God. We thrive when our aspirations have space to grow," Elder Sitati added.

The overall theme of the congress was: Religious Freedom: Hope For Building A Tolerant and Peaceful Continent.

Deliberations at the congress evolved around the African Union's vision Agenda 2063, whose Aspiration No. 3 is an Africa of good governance, democracy, respect for human rights, justice and the rule of law.

Elder Sitati's remarks touched on several strands regarding the religious freedom, including the human dimension, the connection between freedom and religion, dignity and human rights, engaging the differences among us, religious diplomacy and community life.

 

SOCIAL COHESION

"Religious freedom is important because religion itself is important. Religious individuals and communities are uniquely situated to help solve problems in society," said Elder Sitati

"Multiple studies show that religion fosters trust, which is a necessary ingredient for social cohesion and economic growth. Trust between individuals and organizations affects a nation’s economic performance," he added.

Elder Sitati said although law was essential to provide order, set boundaries, establish norms, and incentivize proper conduct, it was at its finest when it was accompanied by a culture of nurture, trust, and gentleness. "If not, the enforcement of law by governments, or the assertiveness of social majorities can stunt the vitality of the human spirit," he said.

Elders Sitati said the presence of religious freedom was tied to lower levels of corruption.

"Corruption has a corrosive effect on society, weakening public trust in leaders and institutions and impoverishing entire economies. The absence of corruption, on the other hand, is often cited as one of the key ingredients necessary for sustainable economic development," said Elder Sitati.

BROADER FREEDOMS

He also said that there was a growing body of research demonstrating that religious freedom fosters peace in society. This freedom helps reduce incidents of religious violence and conflict, said Elder Sitati. And in societies where religious freedom is not respected and protected, he said, the result is often the opposite — there’s an increase in violence and more frequent conflicts disrupting the everyday economic activities essential for business to flourish.

He added that religious freedom encouraged broader freedoms. "Significant empirical evidence points to a strong correlation between the presence of religious freedom and other freedoms, along with a variety of positive social and economic outcomes ranging from better health care to higher incomes for women," Elder Sitati said. 

The congress was hosted by the All Africa Religious Liberty Association.

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