A few years back, France underwent intensive debate regarding potential new restrictions that would prevent individuals from expressing religion in public places. These new regulations became implemented to the law, which resulted in the outbreak of protests in particular from the Muslim community.
From that day on, any symbols that could be attached to any religion have disappeared from the public eye, and those who do not adhere to this rule may be severely punished. The French government declared that the presence of religious symbols in public places might offend followers of different beliefs, and abuse their dignity. This occurrence, therefore, was announced as the ultimate step in secularization of the Republic, and the greatest manifestation of freedom of religion.
However, from my point of view, this French imposition has become a rejection of freedom, and resulted in considerable abuse of human rights. This reform gives a right to legally implicate a person for any kind of religious manifestation. Therefore, I use this case as an example of serious misperception of freedom.
Nowadays, the value of freedom is perceived as the possibility to do everything one wants, without responsibility for others or oneself. In fact, such a distorted picture of freedom may very quickly turn into dependency and violation of human rights. It is very often the case that we regard our freedom as the right to fulfill our desires. Of course, it is understandable that we want to pursue our dreams, seek for excellence or develop our skills.
However, the real freedom of a person is not bound within the responsibility for his own behavior and some of his activities may well become its own rejection. In such a world, inhabited by egoistic beings, the abuse of human rights, dignity and freedom would become normal. Our freedom cannot be regarded as a right to fulfill our desires exclusively, but rather as a possibility to give ourselves to others. I believe that only this perception of freedom may give us authentic happiness and balance.
Daniel Wiśniewski is the regional director of World Youth Alliance Europe.