Awali, Bahrain, Nov 3 (EFE).- Pope Francis on Thursday called for respect for human rights, demanded an end to religious or gender-based discrimination, and urged Bahrain to abolish the death penalty.
The pontiff was addressing the authorities of Bahrain, including King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa, at the Sakhir royal palace, at the start of a four-day visit to the Arab country.
Francis pointed out that the country’s constitution states that “there must be no discrimination based on sex, origin, language, religion or creed”, that “freedom of thought is absolute” and that “the State protects the inviolability of worship”.
Many NGOs, activists and citizens of the Shiite community have urged the Pope to press for tolerance and dialogue in the Arab kingdom, and denounced cases of torture, repression and imprisonment of political or religious dissidents.
In Bahrain, the majority of its 1.4 million inhabitants is Shiite, but its government is led by an absolute Sunni monarchy, allied with Saudi Arabia, leader of the Sunni branch of Islam and rival of Iran, the major Shiite power.
Francis, who has also come to visit the small Catholic community of some 80,000, urged that “religious freedom be full and not limited to freedom of worship; that equal dignity and equal opportunities be recognized concretely for every group and every person; that there be no discrimination and that fundamental human rights not be violated, but promoted.”
In addition, although without expressly citing the death penalty, Francis referred to the need to defend the right to life in Bahrain.
Several NGOs, including Human Rights Watch, have called on Francis to use his trip to urge Bahrain to “to end its human rights abuses”, “to impose a moratorium on death sentences and executions” and “publicly demand that Bahrain halt all executions, abolish the death penalty, and seriously investigate torture allegations and violations of the right to a fair trial.” EFE