Cardinal George Pell has highlighted recent events in Egypt to emphasise the fact there are many places in the world where religious freedom is very much a life or death issue, in the annual lecture on Religious Freedom at the University of Notre Dame Australia School of Law, reports the Catholic Archdiocese of Sydney.
Cardinal Pell introduced his address by speaking of the widespread killings across Egypt and in particular the persecution of Coptic Christians and the destruction of many of their churches as well as schools, hospitals and businesses.
"But there is religious persecution for adherents of all faiths across the globe.
"Fortunately in Australia and most Western countries religious freedom is not a matter of life or death. There are however other serious challenges. It is no longer unusual in places such as the UK, the US and Canada for people to be penalised or dismissed from their jobs, excluded from providing services to children and counselling or challenged for expressing their religious and conscientious convictions about issues such as abortion, marriage and sexuality.
"And in Australia issues of same-sex marriage and anti-discrimination legislation also impact on religious freedom.
"In reflecting on religious freedom in practice Cardinal Pell emphasised being able to provide services that are consistent with the beliefs of the sponsoring religion; being able to employ at least a critical mass of employees who support the those of the sponsoring religion; the issue of government funding and protecting religious freedom by providing protections not exemptions and recognising that exercising other rights is not discrimination.
Religious freedom in practice also means protection for individuals as well as groups and the need to legislate conscience protections."