About the Swiss Centre for Islam and Society, Fribourg

Subsidising the lobbies of religious communities?
There are alternatives.

A few years ago, the Faculty of Theology, associated with the bishopric and the conservative party, reigned over Fribourg society. It was the golden age of true values: children went to Mass in columns in pairs under the guidance of the teacher, and women knew how to stay in their place.

Society has evolved by distancing itself from religions. No longer do all citizens campaign for religious truth. We have finally begun to follow the message brought by the Enlightenment.

But believers persist: in order to solve society's problems, the state needs to strengthen the role of religious communities: a stronger Faculty of Theology, more religious ideologues, more imams, and so on.

The danger: young people are becoming radicalised on the internet. The remedy: the creation of a "Swiss Centre for Islam and Society" within the Catholic Faculty of Theology, partly financed by public funds. There is no connection, unless it is a question of hiding the excess of religion by more religion. For the Faculty of Theology, it is above all a good opportunity to expand by taking advantage of federal subsidies. The Christian Democratic Party has skilfully manoeuvred.

After having justified the Vatican's hold on even the bedrooms of Catholics, theologians today preach the coalition of believers of all stripes, but well-meaning and subsidised. "Believers of all countries, unite!" An alliance against whom? We are not told, but homosexuals, agnostics and atheists do not feel part of it. Are they worse citizens than others?

Why is the state so keen to put all citizens in labelled lockers: Catholics, Protestants, Muslims, etc.? However, other attitudes are not a problem and are more conducive to civil peace, such as remaining ambiguous, refusing to commit oneself under a flag, declaring oneself to be indifferent or "without religion". But, contrary to the public interest, the majority of politicians distribute privileges and proclaim "Faith is good. Certain religious beliefs, in their non-extremist forms, should be supported". Thus, some concessions are granted to other religious communities so that Catholics can continue to enjoy traditional benefits.

The Faculty of Theology at the University of Fribourg was established at a time when Catholicism was the state religion. This foundation is now obsolete. If all the privileges acquired were to be perpetuated, we would still be under the royalty of divine right. Let us put an end to the misappropriation of the State in favour of religious communities! The State does not have to share the militant vision of believers of all stripes and must remain neutral in religious matters. This implies a complete separation of Church and State. In order not to favour the hold of religions on society, framework conditions must be put in place that discourage the partition of society into separate religious communities. The state avoids encouraging, supporting or formalising certain religious communities, distributing privileges and funding. Thus, the Faculty of Theology, and with it the Swiss Centre for Islam and Society, should be a private foundation, completely outside the state and without public funding. Support for various religious communities fragments society and amplifies sources of conflict. It is better to apply a policy of distancing which is called secularism. Naturally, the university should maintain a Department of Religious Sciences, free from any confessional affiliation, i.e. completely secular.

The University has an important role to play in religious issues, but especially in respect for democracy and human rights. However, the Catholic Church first condemned religious freedom and human rights. Dating from the Council Vatican II, the rehabilitation is recent. In matters of gender equality and the defence of the sexual integrity of children, the Church only partially and rather weakly applies human rights. As the Faculty of Theology is not in the best position to give lessons, it would be better to leave such teaching to other faculties.

For a Swiss Centre for Human Rights

The question of the basis of values is crucial. For example, what values should be opposed to slavery? The question arises with regard to certain radical Islamist movements. Since the Catholic Church has, with an expansionist aim, supported slavery in the long term and accompanied the slavers, Christian values are inoperative in this context. It is necessary to appeal to secular values such as human rights. The foundation of the values of the Western world is less in Christianity, as Christian propaganda claims, than in the values inherited from the Enlightenment and developed since then: human rights, democracy, individual freedom, separation of the state sphere from religious spheres, etc.

The State must invest in the development of the fundamental values that allow us to live together in harmony. Why not create a Swiss Centre for Human Rights? Switzerland could claim to play a leading role in this area. To carry out certain activities, such as imam for example, the state should require adequate further training.

It is at all school levels that human rights education should be given, insisting that all religions and ideologies are obliged to submit to it, without restriction or avoidance.

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