1700 years after the Edict of Milan, religious intolerance is still a problem, even if the platitudes flow thick and fast.
This year marks the 1700th anniversary of the birth of religious tolerance in Europe. After 313 AD Christians and followers of other religions were free to practice their beliefs without interference from the authorities of the Roman Empire. The event has been marked by seminars and conferences (especially in Serbia, the birthplace of Constantine the Great). Religious leaders have expressed their concern, however, that Christians are once again under pressure in an increasingly secularised Europe. “Christians are still dying in the world for their adherence to Christ, while in Europe the acts of intolerance and discrimination against Christians are on the increase”, says the Orthodox Metropolitan of France.
In the following interview, historian Martin Kugler, of the Observatory on Intolerance and Discrimination Against Christians, explains the significance of the anniversary.
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MercatorNet: This year, 2013, is the 1700th anniversary of the Emperor Constantine’s Edict of Milan, an event which had momentous consequences for the history of Europe. Could you explain what it was and why it is so important?
Martin Kugler: In 313 AD, shortly after consolidating his power in the Western part of the Roman Empire, Constantine the Great granted religious freedom to all Romans. At that moment it was very clear that Christianity – this being, by the way, contrary to the Muslim religion founded 300 years later – does not necessarily imply any particular style of law or political organisation. Christ’s saying, “Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and unto God the things that are God’s”, marks the beginning of our modern understanding of religious freedom and cohabitation of State and Church.