An Open Letter addressed to:
The President of the Republic of Slovenia,
The Prime Minister of Slovenia,
The Commissioner for Human Rights in the Republic of Slovenia,
The Minister for Education, Science and Sport in Slovenia,
The Director of Radio and Television Programming in Slovenia,
Those with editorial and other positions of authority in the mass media.
Dear Sir or Madam,
You will most certainly be aware of the many acts of religious intolerance currently being perpetrated in Slovenia, especially towards the Catholic Church, its faithful as well as those directed against the Church’s values and sacred buildings. The most recent act that elicited a wide reaction was when a town Councilor from Koper illegally and arbitrarily prevented the bell of Koper Cathedral being rung on the Feast of the Assumption. The 15 August was not only the Cathedral's Feast day but is also a public holiday. Prior to this, the music group Laibach profaned the Church in Kum, and earlier the statue of Mary, the Mother of God, was dishonoured at Portoroz while in Strunjan the Cross was set on fire. The first link in this sad chain of prejudiced events had been the dishonoring of Catholic Slovenia’s most revered icon – the image of the Mother of God from Brezje. On the cover of their recent CD, a music group depicted Mary holding a mouse in her arms in place of the infant Jesus.
This is only a small selection of the many acts of religious intolerance, visible manifestations of a lack of culture and indeed of vandalism that are having wide-reaching repercussions. All the while, nobody is remarking on the insulting slogans being scrawled on Church walls and on other Church buildings.
These acts have never been denounced by the State nor have any authorities distanced themselves from their perpetrators. On the contrary, elements in the mass-media have been mocking and condemnatory towards the representatives of the Catholic Church when they reacted to the defacing of various places of worship. Is it to be understood that the representatives of State and society, with the compliance of the mass-media, are supportive of religious intolerance towards the members of the Catholic Church in Slovenia?
The reasons for this growing intolerance are not unknown.
The first reason consists in the fact that in Slovenia there is still a number of unresolved questions between the State and the Catholic Church. A situation of conflict inevitably generates intolerance. During the last ten years governments have never shown any good will towards resolving these problems in a speedy and adequate manner, in a way which conforms to an international model and favours an equitable solution to both sides. Instead of moving towards the resolution of issues, solutions were deferred or other proposals wholly unacceptable to the Catholic Church in Slovenia were put forward.
An example of one such unacceptable solution is the current prohibition on religious education in schools. The Catholic Church has already warned that this is a clear expression of intolerance and of the devaluing of faith which will, in turn, fuel further intolerance.
The fact that the Constitutional Court of the Republic of Slovenia has confirmed such legislation only intensifies these effects. The Catholic Church has, in this respect, proposed some compromises but these have been regularly spurned by school authorities. The fact that Slovenia is rare among the countries in Europe because of its rejection of appropriate religious instruction within the educational framework continues to be ignored. The relationship of the Slovenian school authorities towards religion is, therefore, the second factor determining the increasing intolerance towards religion and believers.
The third reason for the increasing religious intolerance is the mass media’s relationship towards the Catholic Church. Apart from a totally inadequate knowledge about the Christian faith and the Catholic Church, one continues to find articles by certain journalists that are openly negative, not to mention the cynical prejudices, and the unprofessional, partial and biased approaches exhibited in dealings with religious and ecclesiastical matters. Certain newspapers publish comments and letters that are more akin to material found in anti-Church pamphlets rather than resembling serious analysis, however critical. Worthy of mention at this point are the actions of the local section of the National Television station at Koper who filmed illegally. This offers clear evidence of their foreknowledge of what was going to happen and of their intentions, as well as proof that the journalistic code was being breached. All this confirms that even unprofessional standards are to be found at the heart of the leadership of Radio and TV Slovenia.
There is no other social group in Slovenia (whether religious, national, lifestyle, cultural, or ideological) which continues be a target of such frequent intolerable assaults as the Catholic Church. If such situation were to persist year after year, then other consequences of intolerance would necessarily follow, causing much pain to the Catholics. It is to be feared that such a situation is going to deteriorate. We are familiar with the saying “Those who sow the seeds of hatred reap the whirlwind”. In spite of all this the Commissioner for Human Rights in Slovenia has not to date directed any attention to this form of intolerance that quantitavely surpasses all others.
The Commission for Justice and Peace of the Bishop’s Conference in Slovenia poses these questions to the addressees of this letter, and wishes to be know what they have done and what they intend doing to prevent the increasing intolerance towards the Catholic Church and believers in Slovenia?
The Commission for Justice and Peace is sending this letter to the Apostolic Nuncio in
the Republic of Slovenia, to the Ambassadors of other States, and to the Commissioner for Human Rights at the Council of Europe in Strasbourg.
Dr. Anton Stres, Auxiliary Bishop of Maribor,
President of the Commission for Justice and Peace
of the Bishop’s Conference in Slovenia