European Interreligious Forum For Religious Freedom
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Register to the Faith and Freedom Summit II
The Faith and Freedom Summit, a campaign for freedom of religion of belief in the EU run by a coalition of NGOs (including EIFRF), will have its second event on April 2, in the European Parliament. 

The announcement includes the following: 
"We strongly believe that EU citizens must enjoy a real freedom of religion or belief, at every level, and that this fundamental right is not given the importance it deserves in the EU institutions, and in the EU instruments to protect the various freedoms of EU citizens. That is what we will discuss on April 2, with you."

If you want to attend (limited seats), you need to register here: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/faith-and-freedom-summit-ii-registration-58735000969?aff=ebdssbdestsearch

Here you can see the description of the event which will gather some very interesting speakers: https://faithandfreedomsummit.eu/faith-and-freedom-summit-ii

You should be there!

And by the way, think to sign the pledge of the Faith and Freedom Summit if not yet done, with your name and title: https://faithandfreedomsummit.eu/sign-the-pledge
“I pledge that I will uphold and defend the freedom of conscience and religion of all individuals by rejecting and speaking out against bigotry, discrimination, harassment and violence; and so build a more equitable society for all.”

Rédigé par EIFRF le Thursday, March 14th 2019 | Comments (0)

The Faith and Freedom Summit is not an organisation. It’s a campaign proposed and run by a large coalition of faith-based and non faith-based NGOs and supported by many EU stakeholders.


The Faith and Freedom Summit has a new website
The Summit launched a pledge that all MEP candidates are asked to sign, that reads as following: "I pledge that I will uphold and defend the freedom of conscience and religion of all individuals by rejecting and speaking out against bigotry, discrimination, harassment and violence; and so build a more equitable society for all."  The signature of the pledge is inter alia supported by Mr Ahmed Shaheed, current UN Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Religion or Belief (see here).

Their new website can be seen here: https://faithandfreedomsummit.eu/

EIFRF is part of the coalition of NGOs that promotes the pledge.

As it is written on the first page of the website, we, as others, are committed to freedom of religion or belief and believe that the EU should have more involvement than only tackling these issues in its external relations, as it is the case nowadays. If we want to have a legitimate influence outside of EU borders in the field of freedom of religion, we must be beyond reproach within our borders. Unfortunately, this is not the case today.

We strongly believe that EU citizens must enjoy a real freedom of religion or belief, at every level, and that this fundamental right is not given the importance it deserves in the EU institutions, and in the EU instruments to protect the various freedoms of EU citizens.

It is for these reasons that our mission is to propose and develop initiatives that will put Freedom of Religion or Belief in Europe back in the spotlights. We will see a great deal of committed stakeholders from various backgrounds (scholars, human rights fighters, religious leaders, politicians) joining in to become a real force of proposal for a better Europe, a Europe which cares about freedom.

Your organisation may want to join the coalition. Please do not hesitate to contact them to contact@faithandfreedomsummit.eu

Rédigé par EIFRF le Saturday, January 5th 2019 | Comments (0)

On December 11, 2018 the US State department placed Russia on a Special Watch List for governments that have engaged in or tolerated “severe violations of religious freedom."


US State Dept places Russia on Special Watch List for severe violations of religious freedom
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced it in a press release that can be found here: https://www.state.gov/secretary/remarks/2018/12/288006.htm, with these words:
"In far too many places across the globe, individuals continue to face harassment, arrests, or even death for simply living their lives in accordance with their beliefs. The United States will not stand by as spectators in the face of such oppression. Protecting and promoting international religious freedom is a top foreign policy priority of the Trump Administration. In July, I hosted the first-ever Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom, which brought together some 85 likeminded governments and more than 400 civil society organizations to harness global attention and motivate forceful action to advance respect for the human right of religious freedom."

Ambassador at Large for International Religious Freedom Sam Brownback, during his congressional testimony, explained why Russia was put on the list:
“Russia is trending in the wrong direction a series of things, arbitrary arrests and imprisonment particularly of Jehovah’s Witnesses that were banned, widespread suppression of religious expression and in practice they have a 2016 law criminalizing illegal missionary activities that have included 156 cases reported by NGO’s in 2017 starting with Salvation Army, Pentecostals, Jehovah Witnesses, of course, Baptists, the Administrative Center of the new Apostolic Church, the Presbyterian Church, the Lutheran Church, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, Ukrainian Reform Orthodox Church, and the Russian Orthodox Church abroad, along with a series of Muslim groups and they banned the reading of the Turkish Islamic theologian Said Nursi.  Under a distorted interpretation of its extremists laws they have 145 currently jailed prisoners for religious beliefs, 106 of which are Muslims, they particularly as well go after the Church of Scientology and those are the reasons we’re put them on the special watch list.  Along with other regions as well that we could talk about.”

You can find a video of this testimony here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q6qc0uwKvRA, and the above excerpt can be listened to at 43:01.

Rédigé par EIFRF le Saturday, December 15th 2018 | Comments (0)

Professor Marco Ventura is the Director of the Centre for Religious Studies at Bruno Kessler Foundation, full professor with tenure at the Department of Law of the University of Siena and member of the experts panel on Freedom of Religion of the OSCE. On October 2, he intervened at the conference "Religious life of Russian regions and prevention of religious extremism", which took place in St Petersburg, Russia. The conference was organized by the Russian Association of Religion Researchers (RARR), the Russian association of religious freedom (St. Petersburg office), the Educational scientific center of studying of religions of the Russian State Humanitarian University (Moscow), the St. Petersburg center of theological researches and the Research center of theological and ethnopolitical researches of the Leningrad State University of A.S. Pushkin. EIFRF participated to the conference. Here is the content of Marco Ventura's speech:


St Petersburg Conference on Religious life of Russian regions and prevention of religious extremism - Speech by Marco Ventura
Freedom of Religion or Belief in the OSCE Region
The Value and Rights of Minority Believers
 
International Scientific and Practical Conference
“Religious life of Russian regions and prevention of religious extremism”
St Petersburg
2 October 2018
 
Introduction
1. European minority believers
2. Their value
3. Their rights
Conclusion
 
Introduction
 
This presentation is concerned with minority believers and their freedom in the OSCE region and more specifically with extremism-based or tradition-based limitations of minorities’ freedom. For the purpose of this presentation Four factors combine in making majorities anxious about religious or belief minority individuals and their communities. First, global cultural exchange and transformation are resented as threatening identities and traditions. Second, global politics challenge national sovereignty in general and the extent and efficiency of domestic rule, thus questioning human rights as universal, indivisible, interdependent and interrelated, and hindering the transition to a viable combination of supranational and national/local governance and justice. Third, crisis in the economy and security encourages stigmatisation of minorities as responsible for the crisis and as an obstacle to peace and development. Fourth, innovation in science and technology, most of all in information technology and artificial intelligence, empowers majorities to an unprecedented degree, while increasing their concern that digital communication will make minorities more connected internationally and thus more powerful. The Wall Street Journal has recently denounced the pervasive use by local authorities of technologies of facial recognition and scanning in the Chinese autonomous region of Xinjiang, resulting in the worrying oppression of Muslim Uyghurs.
Against this background, I will argue first that religious or belief minorities represent a crucial value for the OSCE region, to be acknowledged, protected and promoted, and second that inherent and instrumental to such value are minority rights, both general and freedom of religion or belief specific. I will then conclude on the interdependence of the value and rights of minorities in Europe.
 
1. Minority believers in Europe.
 
We have celebrated this year the 25th anniversary of the European Court of Human Rights Kokkinakis decision of 1993, the first ever whereby a State signatory of the European Convention of Human Rights has been found in violation of article 9 ECHR. In the decision, judges made the following seminal point applicable to both our national communities and our transnational community: ‘as enshrined in Article 9, freedom of thought, conscience and religion is one of the foundations of a "democratic society" within the meaning of the Convention. It is, in its religious dimension, one of the most vital elements that go to make up the identity of believers and their conception of life, but it is also a precious asset for atheists, agnostics, sceptics and the unconcerned. The pluralism indissociable from a democratic society, which has been dearly won over the centuries, depends on it (ECtHR, Kokkinakis v. Greece, 1993, at para 31). This text, and the related principle, capture the historical and conceptual dimension of freedom of religion or belief for all in Europe. Historically, and descriptively, the very identity of Europe as well as of its national and local components is based on pluralism of religion or belief in a democratic society. Conceptually, and prescriptively, no democratic society can exist, if one of its foundations, freedom of religion or belief, is not granted to all. As a consequence, minority believers are to be understood as an indispensable part of the European equation, historically and conceptually, descriptively and prescriptively.
 
2. Their value.
The value of minorities is not limited to some of them, but extends to all, big and small, more or less widespread, old or new. Orthodox Christians of the various Patriarchates and autocephalous churches, pre-Calcedonian churches, Roman Catholics and Protestants, Jewish of different schools, Sunni and Shia, Ahmadi and Alevi, Buddhists and Hindus of various traditions, Sikh and Baha’is belong to the same European symphony, as do Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses, Baptists and Adventists, Scientologists and Pentecostals. All have been recognised by European institutions, and the Court of Strasbourg.
Minority believers and their communities represent a crucial value for Europe as understood in the European Convention of human rights and other international and pan-European instruments, on two accounts. First, they are indispensable to a plural, diverse and dynamic European society. Second, they are necessary to a rich and flourishing religious environment. On both accounts, the value of minorities is not limited to some of them, but extends to all, big and small, more or less widespread, old or new. Orthodox Christians of the various Patriarchates and autocephalous churches, pre-Calcedonian churches, Roman Catholics and Protestants, Jewish of different schools, Sunni and Shia, Ahmadi and Alevi, Buddhists and Hindus of various traditions, Sikh and Baha’is belong to the same European symphony, as do Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses, Baptists and Adventists, Scientologists and Pentecostals. All have been recognised by European institutions, and the Court of Strasbourg. In the European perspective, the value of minorities is inextricably linked to the value of majorities, since all majorities in a given land are minorities elsewhere. From such values follows a process of mutual learning. Minorities invite majorities to recognise and welcome their own internal diversity and the diversity of society. Majorities invite minorities to contribute to the common good and the harmony of society. The ultimate value of minority believers is thus that in multiple ways they are precious, and indispensable actors of renewal, witnessing and contributing to the capacity of the individuals and communities in the OSCE region to perpetuate traditions and identities through a sensible process of cultural and religious change. Such renewal is not only compatible with religious traditions, but is a peculiar contribution of them, based as it is on a careful, gradual, incremental process of change balancing traditions and modernity. In fact, such renewal turns out to be an inspiration for our innovation-driven society, whereas majority and minority believers together have a lot to contribute to how to best draw the line between good and bad change, desirable and undesirable change.
 
3. Their rights.
 
Minority believers do have rights, individual, collective and institutional. Some rights are not specific to religion or belief. Belonging to this category is the right not to be limited in the personal freedom, private life and property without an objective and strict justification according to the terms of international law in general and the European Convention of Human Rights in particular. Defence rights and the right to a fair trial are also crucial rights for minority believers. Some rights are indeed specific to freedom of religion or belief as a multi-faceted human right embracing individual, collective, institutional, educative and communicative dimensions. Such right is expressly recognized in international and regional standards and OSCE commitments. Freedom of religion or belief is a right belonging to all human beings, men and women, whether theistic, non-theistic, atheistic or other believers. It includes the freedom of everyone to manifest their religion or belief, individually or in community with others, in public or in private, through worship, teaching, practice and observance. Under international law, “security” or “national security” is not recognized as a permissible ground for restricting the manifestation of freedom of religion or belief. Under freedom of religion or belief, communities are protected against targeting, discrimination and persecution. In particular religious or belief communities can not be declared criminal organizations and outlawed simply because of the criminal conviction of one or more members; more generally, States should not sanction religious or belief communities for the criminal conduct of individuals or groups, or target individuals or groups because of their religion or belief, but should address the specific unlawful activity of individuals or groups. Also States sanction religious or belief communities by reference to concepts such as “extremism” or “radicalization” which, given their imprecise nature and lack of a commonly accepted definition, render them open to different interpretations and arbitrariness in their application. The legal prohibition and sanctioning of activities carried out by unregistered religious or belief communities is also incompatible with international standards and OSCE commitments.
 
Conclusion
 
The correlation between rights and value is not one of hierarchy, or priority. Minority believers do not possess rights because of and insofar as they have value. Rights are inherent to them. Rather the correlation between value and rights should be seen as one of mutual enrichment and strengthening. This is all the more key, and relevant, for traditional majorities in our respective countries. Whenever and wherever minority believers are denied acknowledgment of their value and protection of their rights, it is the very essence of what means to be European to be at risk, and the very legacy of what Europeans, and European nations and peoples conquered over the centuries.
 

Rédigé par EIFRF le Wednesday, October 3rd 2018 | Comments (0)

The Faith and Freedom Summit: Practicing what we Preach in Europe is a non-partisan summit, which brings together leaders from the various fields of politics, government, academia, activism and the non-for-profit sector from across Europe and beyond, in order to propose and develop initiatives that will put Freedom of Religion or Belief in Europe back in the spotlights.


Register to the Faith and Freedom Summit
Top international speakers at the event include:

Jan Figel
EU Special Envoy for the promotion of freedom of religion or belief outside the European Union

Salvatore Martinez
Rep of the Italian presidency at OSCE

Dr. Eli Nacht
Official Representative of International Committee of Human Rights in Israel

Marco Ventura
PROFESSOR OF LAW & RELIGION at University of Siena

Vincent Berger
Former Jurisconsult of European Court of Human Rights

Kristina Arriaga
USCIRF Commissionner and Vice-Chairwoman of the Commission

Ahmed Shaheed
Special Rapporteur on human rights to UN Human Rights Council

Sam Brownback
U.S. Ambassador at Large for International Religious Freedom

Thomas Schirrmacher
President of the International Society for Human Rights

And many others that you can find on the website of the Summit: 
http://faithandfreedomsummit.eu 

You'll find also on it the address, the agenda, and everything to register to this historic event.

Rédigé par EIFRF le Monday, June 18th 2018 | Comments (0)

Summary of the conference Religions, Scriptures and Interreligious Dialogue
On Saturday May 5, the European Interreligious Forum for Religious Freedom organized a conference called: “Religions, Scriptures and Interreligious Dialogue - Is interreligious dialogue part of your religious duties, and what can it do for peace?” 
 
The conference was hosted by the European Office of the Church of Scientology for Public Affairs and Human Rights.
 
In front of a very attentive audience, several religious leaders developed on the scriptural roots of interreligious dialogue, and brought the public to the realization that a strong faith and a strong commitment to its own religion does not and should never lead to the reject of others. To the opposite, the understanding of the scriptures leads to the willingness to share, to exchange and to understand others with respect and affinity.
 
Father Stan Nwaigwe, a Catholic priest from the Congregation of the Holy Spirit, started by quoting the bible. Then commenting on the Acts of Apostles 10, and the Gospel of St. John, he said: “The essential element of the Word of God, which Jesus has accomplished can also be recognized outside the Christian-fold. To assume otherwise is to underestimate and diminish the universal scope of Christ's power. Besides, we only contradict ourselves to assume that God who is almighty could not make Godself known in forms incomprehensible to us. In a nutshell, there is no contradiction in the Christian bible about the plurality of the way to God. By recognizing that God has no room for favoritism, the bible recognizes religious practice outside Christianity.” He concluded by stressing the importance of interreligious dialogue in order to create harmonious relationships between people.
 
Then Mr. Manik Paul, an activist of interfaith and intercultural dialogue promotion, honorary President of the Hindu Forum of Belgium, explained how Hinduism is the source of a natural trend to practice interreligious dialogue: “Today, I feel myself fortunate enough to be the part of this conference as a speaker to highlight on the issue of interreligious dialogue from my Hindu perspective. In this connection I owe my gratitude to the members of the Church of Scientology. Any great civilization is a product of diversity. It is able to bring together many different views and practices in science, religion, art and culture as well as embrace various racial, ethnic, and linguistic groups. It also has a long sense of history and can integrate within itself many different historical currents. A culture where everyone must have the same beliefs and follow the same practices is not a true culture and it denies the human spirit that always seeks to grow and express itself in a variety of ways. My value system thought to acknowledge religious plurality and inclusive secularism. Still I can remember the advice of the great Indian saint Sri Ramakrishna – “as you remain firm in your own faith and opinion, so leave the others the same freedom to remain firm in their faiths and opinions.” That was the first lesson in my life to understand pluralism and the imperativeness for respecting all other traditions and religions.”
 
Third Speaker, Father Petar Gramatikov, Hierodeacon of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church, in a speech that he entitled “The Power of Love Must Defeat the Love of Power”, commented on words from St. Luke Voyno-Yasenetsky, Archbishop of Crimea and Simferopol in the middle of the 20th Century, and declared: “In its depth the opposite of peace is not war, but self-centered - personal, collective, national, tribal, religious. It generates the various forms of violence that kill peace in different ways.
The antidote to egocentrism is not the vague moral appeals, nor the legal formalities and mechanisms for their application. But it is necessary to strengthen an active and multidimensional love that is not limited to its own national borders, prejudice and discrimination. Here lies the great opportunity and responsibility of people with a strong religious consciousness. Even in the face of long-standing conflicts, it enables forgiveness and reconciliation. The strength and power of love must and can defeat the love for the power that destroys peace.
 
The last speaker, Reverend Eric Roux from the Church of Scientology, concluded his speech with these words: “why Dialogue is so important? Dialogue, when well conducted is communication. Communication will create more affinity, more reality. Communication will create understanding. And when you understand your fellow, war is over. Actually, if you understand each other before war happens, there will never be any war. And if you continue to create this dialogue, there will be no space for misunderstanding, and the efforts of the ones who seek to create war will be useless, as the understanding will be so strong that any effort to undermine it will vanish. Of course today, in several situations, we are late at creating this understanding. But that does not mean that we do not need to catch up for lost time. Interreligious dialogue is a needed and effective way to contribute to a world without war, and the strength of religions lies in their willingness to engage in communication and to put their wisdom to the service of humanity.”
 
The conference concluded with a Q&A that allowed the attendees to ask their questions to the speakers, and the speakers to develop on specific points that had retained the attention of the attendees.
 

Rédigé par EIFRF le Tuesday, June 12th 2018 | Comments (0)

Conference - Religions, Scriptures and Interreligious Dialogue
Religions, Scriptures and Interreligious Dialogue
Is interreligious dialogue part of your religious duties, and what can it do for peace?

Organized by

The European Interreligious Forum for Religious Freedom (EIFRF)

The conference will be translated in English and French 

Father Ignace Berten
Theologian - Dominican Order

Father Stan Ebere Nwigwe
Catholic Priest

Karim Geirnaert
In charge of the conversions to Islam in Belgium
In charge of the Muslim Scouts and Guides of Belgium
President EuroHalal


Rev. Hierodeacon Petar Gramatikov
Bulgarian Orthodox Church - Doctor of Theology

Manik Paul
Hindu community of Belgium

Rev. Eric Roux
Vice President - European Office of the Church of Scientology 
For Public Affairs and Human Rights



Saturday May 5, 2018 from 14h30 to 17h30
Churches of Scientology for Europe - Boulevard Waterloo 103 - Brussels 1000

RSVP at ericroux@europeanaffairs.eu 
Refreshments and hot drinks will be served

Rédigé par EIFRF le Monday, April 16th 2018 | Comments (0)

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