Religious freedom key to promotion of human development, Msgr. Vitillo says at UN event

A nun with internally displaced children in El SalvadorThe role of religious leaders in providing protection and conflict prevention is often overlooked by the international humanitarian community. Photo: ICMC Geneva, 28 November 2016 - Last week, ICMC Secretary General Msgr. Robert J. Vitillo spoke about the status of freedom of religion in the context of humanitarian emergencies at a high-level seminar organized by Catholic networks Aid to the Church and Caritas Internationalis at the United Nations Office in Geneva.

Msgr. Vitillo remarked that religious persecution is often a root cause of humanitarian emergencies. “Although economic factors played a major part, the countries which largely accounted for the increase in refugees in 2015 were centers of religious extremism – Syria (Daesh), Afghanistan (Taliban) and Somalia (Al Shabaab),” he said.

He went on praising the role of faith-based organizations in preventing and responding to humanitarian crises. On the humanitarian frontline for the reception and integration of displaced people, religious organizations relentlessly promote the responsibility to protect, thereby contributing to the advancement of human development worldwide.

In a dialogue with Michel Veuthey, Director of the Centre Catholique d’Etudes de Genève, Msgr. Vitillo also commended the commitment of the volunteers of resettlement support centers promoting "safe spaces for refugees to learn and embrace new customs" and highlighted the importance for adult refugees to access decent and productive opportunities to achieve full integration in the host society.

The text of Msgr. Vitillo's speech is available in full below.