European Interreligious Forum For Religious Freedom

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The conference, organized by EIFRF and the All Faiths Network (member of the Inter Faith Network for UK - https://www.interfaith.org.uk ) will be held Tuesday December 19, 2017 at 14h30, Renaissance Hotel (Mariott) - Rue du Parnasse 19, 1050 Brussels, at 2mn walk from the European Parliament. (Last Update: Kishan Manocha, originally planned to speak at this conference, will unfortunately not be able to attend for Professional engagements which were not planned at the time of the invitation.)


Russia:  Exploring Interfaith Dialogue  and Freedom of Religion - A conference and debate
Speakers
 
Jan Figel
EU Special Envoy for the promotion of the freedom of religion or belief outside the EU
Senior Advisor on Freedom of Religion and Belief, Human Rights Department, OSCE/ODIHR
Leonid Sevastianov
Executive Director of the Orthodox St. Gregory the Theologian Charity Foundation - Moscow
 
Massimo Introvigne
Professor of Sociology of Religion
Former Representative of the OSCE for combating racism, xenophobia, and intolerance and discrimination against Christians
 
 
Tuesday December 19, 2017 from 14h30 to 17h30
Renaissance Hotel - Rue du Parnasse 19, 1050 Brussels


The conference, organized by
EIFRF and the All Faiths Network (member of the Inter Faith Network for UK - https://www.interfaith.org.uk ) will be held Tuesday December 19, 2017 at 14h30, Renaissance Hotel (Mariott) - Rue du Parnasse 19, 1050 Brussels, at 2mn walk from the European Parliament. To reserve your place please contact eiforumrf@gmail.com .
 
Russia is a vast country with a rich religious and cultural history along with a wide range of faiths. It has been subject to many changes, both turbulent and invigorating, over the last century which have coalesced to bring about today’s modern state.
 
Religion should be able to stand above all this. It is, after all, about the spiritual in Man – about greater aspirations than just worldly gain and religion has a moral role to play in enhancing the culture for the greatest good of all.
 
There is, understandably, a certain concern when small, new or old versions of different religions enter the cultural landscape that were not present before. However, what we have also advanced over the last century are human rights standards which have developed considerably in order to protect the rights of individuals and to respect their choices.
 
Whilst there has also been some international criticism of certain decisions made within Russia concerning religious status it is clear that the vast majority of Russian people simply wish to live in peace and comfort whilst being able to follow their own religious choices.
 
This conference has the purpose of developing dialogue between all religions great and small, to develop, educate about and respect human rights standards and to drive forward a responsible approach to interfaith and religion-government relations. The conference will be followed by live debate.

Rédigé par EIFRF le Wednesday, November 22nd 2017 | Comments (0)

The Church of Almighty God is one of the minority religious groups which suffer persecutions in China, and are quite victims of false information spreading. EIFRF decided to publish the following report that they realised. This report has been considered as very serious by several knowledgeable academics working with EIFRF. It's a primary source that should be taken into account.


Report: Persecution of the Church of Almighty God in China
2017 Annual Report on the Chinese Communist Government’s Persecution of the Church of Almighty God

The Church of Almighty God (CAG), also known as Eastern Lightning, has long been one of the most severely persecuted Chinese house churches by the Chinese Communist government. Since its establishment in 1991, the CAG has continued to endure the brutal repression and persecution of the Chinese Communist government. In 1995, the CCP government used trumped-up charges such as “fraud in the name of religion, Qigong” and “deification of their leading members” to condemn the CAG as an “evil cult” and brutally repress and persecute the CAG. According to rough statistics, in just the two short years between 2011 and 2013, the number of Christians of the CAG illegally arrested, detained and sentenced by the Communist Party reached 380,380 people, of which 43,640 people were subjected to various methods of torture at the hands of kangaroo courts, including 13 people who were persecuted to death. As of now, there are already 44 well-documented cases of Christians of the CAG killed by the Communist Party. (For details, see “A Brief History of the CCP’s Persecution of the Church of Almighty God.”) In 2017, the repression of the CAG by the Communist Party continues to escalate.

The CCP Government Increases Suppression of Religious Beliefs In 2017, the CCP government issued a “Two High” (Supreme People’s Court and Supreme People’s Procuratorate) judicial interpretation and passed a new “Regulations on Religious Affairs” to further restrict the public right to freedom of religion and increase the suppression and persecution of religious beliefs. (...)

To read the full report, download it here:

Rédigé par EIFRF le Saturday, November 18th 2017 | Comments (0)

Prof. Dr. Jos Dumortier is an internationally renowned top expert in data protection. Since 1993, he has been a Professor of Law at the Law Faculty of the University of Leuven, where he teaches data protection. Back in the 90s', he was one of the first Belgian lawyers to deal with data protection, long before other lawyers started practising this area of law. At that time he was appointed by the Belgian Government to draft the Belgian Data Protection Act. He very frequently acts as counsel to the Belgian Federal Government, the Belgian Federal Public Service of Information and Communication Technology, the Flemish, Walloon and Brussels Governments, the European Commission, the Dutch government and various other Belgian and international public sector bodies to draft contracts or provide advice in these areas of law.


Interview: Top data protection international expert on the Hungarian Scientology case
EIFRF interviewed him on the "Scientology case" in Hungary, where the Scientologists are the target of a campaign from the Hungarian government, which decided to go against them via the National Data Protection Agency. This agency then decided to arbitrarily seize Church of Scientology parishioner files, including priest-penitent files. 

EIFRF: The Hungarian Data Protection Agency and Hungarian National Bureau of Investigation are pretending that the folders that the Church of Scientology uses for monitoring the spiritual progresses of its parishioners, violate the Data Protection regulations of the European Union. What do you think about it?
 
Jos Dumortier: From a strictly legal point of view, these folders are outside the scope of the European data protection legislation. The European legislator never aimed at introducing formal legal rules for handwritten notes, taken by someone on a sheet of paper during a meeting, an interview or, as in the Church of Scientology, an auditing session.
Data protection laws are intended to protect individuals against automated or manual means which enable easy and rapid retrieval of personal information about a specific individual, even if this information is stored in different sources. This is primarily a characteristic of computerised files. Only if manual, paper-based, methods enable similar retrieval, linking or associations, then these methods are also included in the scope of data protection legislation.
Extending this scope to all kinds of handwritten notes or other paper documents, would lead to absurd consequences. The Hungarian data protection supervisor also seems to think that paper-based dossiers are submitted to the European data protection rules if the documents are properly arranged in dossiers, or if the dossiers are stored in alphabetical order. The consequence of this reasoning is that it would suffice to bring some disorder into your paper documents, to escape from the law! It is evident that this has never been the objective of the European legislator.  

EIFRF: This criticism against the folders kept by the Church of Scientology has already been raised by the Prosecutor office in Belgium. What has been the final decision of the Belgian courts, did they found that the Church of Scientology was guilty of a crime related to data protection? Are there other instances where the folders kept by the church of scientology to monitor the spiritual progresses of its followers have been examined by official bodies?

Jos Dumortier: The public prosecutor in Belgium attempted to get the Church of Scientology sanctioned on the basis of similar accusations as the Hungarian data protection supervisor today. The argument that the paper files held by the Church of Scientology are regulated by the provisions of the data protection law, has been rejected, not only by the Brussels tribunal in the Church of Scientology case, but also by a Belgian Court of Appeal in a similar case about another religious organisation (Jehovah Witnesses).
Also in other countries, like Sweden, the data protection authorities have, likewise, judged that the paper files held by the Church of Scientology are outside the scope of the European data protection law. 
Also the Belgian highest court, the “Court of Cassation”, has judged  that, to bring personal data contained in paper dossiers within the scope of the data protection legislation, three criteria need to be fulfilled:
1) the data themselves (not the documents only) need to be structured according to specific criteria,
2) these criteria need to relate to individual persons, and
3) the criteria should allow easy access to the personal data.
This case dealt with HR dossiers held by the Ministry of Justice! The decisions of the Belgian courts are perfectly in line with recital 27 of the European data protection Directive, which states that: “files or sets of files as well as their cover pages, which are not structured according to specific criteria, shall under no circumstances fall within the scope of this Directive”.

Also in other countries, like Sweden, the data protection authorities have, likewise, judged that the paper files held by the Church of Scientology are outside the scope of the European data protection law.
 
EIFRF: On the other side, do you think that the fact that the Hungarian authorities seized and consulted these folders containing personal data protected by Priest-Parishioner privilege, could be a problem, or even a crime based on personal data protection EU law?

Jos Dumortier: One of the most important recitals of the European General Data Protection Regulation is Recital 4. It is stated as follows: “The processing of personal data should be designed to serve mankind. The right to the protection of personal data is not an absolute right; it must be considered in relation to its function in society and be balanced against other fundamental rights, in accordance with the principle of proportionality. This Regulation respects all fundamental rights and observes the freedoms and principles recognised in the Charter as enshrined in the Treaties, in particular the respect for private and family life, home and communications, the protection of personal data, freedom of thought, conscience and religion, freedom of expression and information, freedom to conduct a business, the right to an effective remedy and to a fair trial, and cultural, religious and linguistic diversity”. Consequently, data protection supervisory authorities are requested to respect a fair balance between the personal data protection rights of an individual and freedom of religion.
It leads to the paradoxical consequence, that the individual privacy and personal data protection rights of the parishioners are damaged as never before by an authority which has been established precisely to protect those privacy rights!
In the Hungarian case against the Church of Scientology this “fair balance” is completely absent. It leads to the paradoxical consequence, similar to  what we experienced in the Belgian Scientology court case, that the individual privacy and personal data protection rights of the parishioners are damaged as never before by an authority which has been established precisely to protect those privacy rights! 
In some other countries, such unwanted situations have been anticipated by legislators in a better way than in Europe. The Japanese data protection law, for example, explicitly states that an investigation by the data protection authority “in the course of requiring the submission of material or of conducting an onsite inspection should not hinder the freedom of expression, freedom of academia, freedom of religion, and freedom of political activity”. Similar to Europe, the Japanese legislator has attributed very large powers to an independent data protection supervisory authority, but at the same time, ensured that these powers can never be (ab)used to hinder the exercise of fundamental rights and freedoms.
 
 
 
 
 

Rédigé par EIFRF le Saturday, November 4th 2017 | Comments (0)

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