Croatian activists say religious freedom is foundational to Europe’s future

'When you are working for the human freedom that God has given us, then you're in good company'

Dr. John Graz, IRLA secretary general (right), speaks at the Zagreb, Croatia, event.

January 31, 2012 ...Croatian president Ivo Josipovic was among eight people honored January 28 by religious freedom advocates for his commitment to “guarding and nurturing tolerance and human rights.” More than 200 religious and government leaders attended the event in the capital, Zagreb. Dragutin Matak, secretary of the Religious Freedom Association in the Republic of Croatia, said the awards ceremony was aimed at encouraging even more people to become active supporters of religious freedom. “We want to tell everybody, 'When you are working for the human freedom that God has given us, then you're in good company.' "

In acknowledging the award, President Josipovic said, "In my work, and in life in general, I always try to keep to Voltaire's maxim: 'I may not agree with you, but I will always defend your right to own opinion.’” He pledged to continue his efforts to strengthen tolerance and mutual understanding between different religious communions as Croatia moves into the future.

Internationally renowned theologian and peace activist Dr. Hans Kung was another honoree at the event. In his acceptance letter, he said those who worked for freedom needed to pursue their goals with a strong sense of both “realism and idealism.”

Speakers at the event included John Graz, Secretary General of International Religious Freedom Association (IRLA); Raafat Kamal, Secretary of the European chapter of the IRLA, and Ljiljana Matkovic-Vlasic, president of the Association in Croatia.

In his address, Mr. Kamal warned that the gradual erosion of human dignity and religious liberty in some parts of Europe was potentially “more dangerous to Europe than the lack of capital or the lack of political power.” He added, “There is need to embrace our responsibility to address head-on the threats to this precious freedom.” 

Others honored at the gala celebration were Croatian religious liberty advocates Redžo Hamzić, Aziz Hasanovic, Tihomir Kukolja, Don Stanko Lasic, Srđan Škunca, and Joseph Takac.