European Interreligious Forum For Religious Freedom
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Today in the Parlementary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE), Rapporteur Valeriu Ghiletchi proposed a resolution and a recommendation for "The Protection of the rights of parents and children belonging to religious minorities" to the members of the Assembly coming from 47 countries.


Freedom of religion prevails again at Council of Europe
After intense debates, both the resolution and the recommandation have been approved by the Assembly, and Rapporteur Valeriu Ghiletchi has been applauded for his tenacity and courage by the whole assembly at the end of the votes.

Mr Ghiletchi had been appointed as rapporteur by the Committee on Equality and Non Discrimination of the PACE following a motion for a resolution (N° 13333) which stated: 
The Assembly finds that new religious movements and religious minorities are especially at risk regarding the infringement of these rights by some member States.

Derogatory labeling of religious minorities as ‘sects’, ‘sectarian’, ‘cults’ or any other term generates bias and stigmatization and lead to undue restrictions to a parent’s right to raise and educate their children in conformity with their own beliefs.
The Assembly therefore resolves to study and identify cases where member States do not respect the rights of parents to educate children according to their own religious and philosophical convictions, especially with regard to minorities.

Then he worked out his report for two years and finally came with these resolution and recommendation in order to encourage the 47 States of the Council of Europe to protect these fundamental rights.

The resolution 2163 calls on Member States to protect the rights of parents and children belonging to religious minorities by taking practical steps, legislative or otherwise, to :
• affirm the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion for all individuals, including the right not to adhere to any religion, and protect the right of all not to be compelled to perform actions that go against their deeply held moral or religious beliefs, while ensuring that access to services lawfully provided is maintained and the right of others to be free from discrimination is protected;
• promote reasonable accommodation of the deeply held moral or religious beliefs of all individuals in cases of serious conflict to enable citizens to freely manifest their religion or belief in private or in public, within the limits defined by legislation and provided that this is not detrimental to the rights of others;
• repeal any law or rule which establishes a discriminatory distinction between religious minorities and majority beliefs;
• ensure easy-to-implement options for children or parents to obtain exemptions from compulsory State religious education programmes that are in conflict with their deeply held moral or religious beliefs; such options may include non-confessional teaching of religion, providing information on a plurality of religions, and ethics programmes.

Rédigé par EIFRF le Thursday, April 27th 2017 | Comments (0)

3 chapters of the International Religious Freedom Roundtable (US, Europe and Vietnam. Implemented by EIFRF in Europe) gathered and got 93 signatories on this letter to President Vladimir Putin. The letter has been sent now.


Letter to Vladimir Putin about the Yarovaya law with 93 signatories
August 4, 2016
 
Vladimir Putin
President of Russia
The Kremlin
Presidential Executive Office
 
Dear Mr. President,
 
We write as an informal group of organizations and individuals who are scholars, religious and secular leaders, and human rights advocates to express our deep concern about Federal Laws № 374-ФЗ and 375-ФЗ, On Amendments to the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation and the Criminal Procedure Code of the Russian Federation to establish additional measures to counter terrorism and ensure public safety (the Federal Anti-Terrorism Law), which you signed into law on 6 July 2016.
 
The Federal Anti-Terrorism Law further restricts religious freedom. We are particularly concerned about the amendments that introduce an entire new section to the Religion Law, imposing strict limits on sharing beliefs, including where and who may share them, and increase extremism punishments.
 
As impact studies are now done and a set of normative acts or instructions are developed for its implementation, we respectfully urge you to ensure the Federal Anti-Terrorism Law is not used against peaceful spiritual groups.
 
We are a truly multi-faith group of organizations and individuals, representing a high degree of diversity. We agree on very little theologically, but we all agree on the importance of religious freedom for all faiths and none. And we all share common interests and goals with the Russian government—stability, security, peace and prosperity in Russia.
 
We are aware of the fact that Russia has to be vigilant in order to prevent extremism, violence and terrorism. But you must fully consider and understand the impact of these amendments on social cohesion and national security. The need to counter violent extremism is pressing, but cracking down on religious freedom is a dangerous and counterproductive response.
 
This conclusion is increasingly bolstered by empirical research. An exhaustive study by academics from Harvard, Notre Dame and Georgetown found “that religious communities are most likely to support democracy, peace and freedom for other faiths, and least likely to take up the gun or form dictatorships, when governments allow them freedom to worship, practice and express their faiths freely and when religious communities in turn renounce their claims to permanent offices or positions of policy-making authority.”[1] Dr. Brian Grim, a noted expert on society, the economy and religion, has found a strong correlation between government restrictions on religion and religiously-motivated violence.[2]
 
Further, the Federal Anti-Terrorism Law poses threats to the fundamental human rights and freedoms that are guaranteed by Russia’s Constitution and its international human rights obligations, including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) human dimension commitments, the European Convention on Human Rights, and the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties.
 
When evaluated within these legal frameworks, the Federal Anti-Terrorism Law raises a number of serious problems. It restricts the dissemination of beliefs in public to registered groups and organizations, and bars even informal sharing of beliefs by individuals acting on their own behalf. Perhaps most concerning, it restricts the beliefs that can be shared, limits the places where sharing beliefs can happen and explicitly bans sharing beliefs in residential buildings, "except as provided for by Article 16, Part 2 of [the Religion Law]." Article 16, Part 2, states that worship services and other religious rites and ceremonies may be freely held in residential premises, as well as in premises owned or rented by religious organizations. It is therefore unclear what this part of the amendment will mean in practice.
 
Prominent Russian citizens have made valid points in voicing great concerns, including:
 
  • Mikhail Fedotov, Chair of the Presidential Council on Civil Society Development and Human Rights, argues that the amendments restricting sharing beliefs "create unjustified and excessive restrictions on the freedom of conscience of believers of all religions, and encroach upon the fundamental constitutional principle of non-interference by the state in the internal arrangements of religious associations."
 
  • Albir Krganov, the Mufti of Moscow, the Central Region of Russia and Chuvashia, said that he did not know how the law could possibly be enforced given that Muslim leaders routinely visit the homes of believers without specific authorization. “This was an unjustified step,” Krganov said. Moreover, the provisions of the law and the failure of the deputies to consult with religious groups will, he suggested, “lead to the radicalization of Islamic society in the country,” with many “simply going underground and no longer listening to official religious workers.” That in turn will lead to “a split within the Islamic community,” something no one can possibly want.
 
  • On 23 June, the Consultative Council of Leaders of Protestant Churches, led by Pentecostal Bishop Sergei Ryakhovsky, appealed publicly to you not to sign a law which they see as both unconstitutional and impractical. "It is not possible to forbid believers to pray, to share with others their religious experiences, to quote lines of scripture in conversation with people, or to perform certain religious rituals outside of religious buildings—or to prohibit them from doing it all in residential premises," their letter points out. They also stress that both the Constitution and international legal norms guarantee the right to disseminate beliefs as an integral part of the right to freedom of religion and belief.
 
  • Bishop Konstantin Bendas of the Union of Evangelical Christians pointed out on 24 June that, "We follow the common biblical practice of house churches, in which parishioners not only come to church on Sundays, but gather in each other’s flats or houses during the week, when small services may be held, to which may be invited, among others, even people who are not members of the church. By my reckoning, in Moscow alone more than a thousand of these house churches gather every week." The presence of non-believers or members of other faiths may lead such events to be considered "missionary activity."
 
  • On 26 June, the Baptist Council of Churches published an open letter of protest reminding you that the government itself refused to support earlier attempts to restrict sharing beliefs. It also complains that legislators responsible for the Bill did not seek the views of competent experts or the opinions of believers, "who are the most affected by the new amendments", and that the Bill violates Russian citizens’ constitutional right "freely to choose, hold, and disseminate religious and other beliefs" (Article 28) to all other citizens, regardless of whether or not they belong to the same or any religious association. The Baptists fear that the law will "create conditions for the repression of all Christians" and that "Any person who mentions their religious views or reflections out loud or puts them in writing, without the relevant documents, could be accused of ‘illegal missionary activity’ and subjected to a heavy fine."
 
  • "Spreading faith is a statutory objective of almost every religious association, organizations and groups alike, as well as a way to practice their religion for believers, who until recently had a constitutional right to share their creed with others, be publicly baptized, read prayers, offer literature, and just talk heart to heart", Mukaddas Bibarsov, Co-chair of the Council of Muftis and head of the Spiritual Administration of Muslims of the Volga Region said in a 29 June article.
 
The Federal Anti-Terrorism Law also includes amendments to the Criminal Code which will increase punishments for offenses under Article 282.2, Part 1 ("Organization of an extremist organization") and Part 2 ("Participation in an extremist organization").
 
Russia is a great power, and we believe with great power status comes the need to act in conformity with Russia's international human rights commitments and accept responsibility for joint solutions. So we hope and trust you will focus on common interests and goals, and ensure the Federal Anti-Terrorism Law is not used against peaceful spiritual groups.
 
Respectfully,
 
Greg Mitchell
Co-Chair, International Religious Freedom Roundtable
President, The Mitchell Firm
 
ORGANIZATIONS
 
21st CENTURY WILBERFORCE INITIATIVE
 
ADVANCING FREEDOM OF RELIGION OR BELIEF (VIETNAM)
 
ADVISORY COMMITTEE ON RELIGIOUS FREEDOM FOR VIETNAM
 
THE ALL FAITH NETWORK UK
 
AMERICAN ATHEISTS
 
AMERICAN HUMANIST ASSOCIATION
 
ASSOCIATION OF FORMER POLITICAL AND RELIGIOUS PRISONERS (VIETNAM)
 
BLOC OF TRADITIONAL HOA HAO BUDDHISTS (VIETNAM)
 
BOAT PEOPLE SOS
 
CATHOLICS IN ALLIANCE FOR THE COMMON GOOD
 
CENTER FOR INQUIRY
 
CENTER FOR PLURALISM
 
CHURCH OF SCIENTOLOGY NATIONAL AFFAIRS OFFICE

CHURCHES IN ACTION
 
COORDINATION DES ASSOCIATIONS ET DES PARTICULIERS POUR LA LIBERTÉ DE CONSCIENCE (FRANCE)
Member of the Economic and Social Council of the UN
 
EUROPEAN FEDERATION FOR FREEDOM OF BELIEF (ITALY)
 
EUROPEAN INTERRELIGIOUS FORUM FOR RELIGIOUS FREEDOM (EIFRF)
 
FORUM FOR RELIGIOUS FREEDOM EUROPE (FOREF)
 
GERARD NOODT FOUNDATION (NETHERLANDS)
 
HINDU AMERICAN FOUNDATION (HAF)
 
HUMAN RIGHTS WITHOUT FRONTIERS (HRWF)
 
INSTITUTE ON RELIGION AND DEMOCRACY
 
THE INTERFAITH ALLIANCE UK
 
INTERNATIONAL CHRISTIAN CONCERN

INTERNATIONAL INSTITUTE FOR RELIGIOUS FREEDOM
 
JUBILEE CAMPAIGN USA
 
THE LEADERSHIP COUNCIL FOR HUMAN RIGHTS
 
PEOPLE SERVING PEOPLE FOUNDATION (THAILAND)
 
PHAP BIEN PAGODA, UNIFIED BUDDHIST CHURCH OF VIETNAM IN BA RIA - VUNG TAU 
 
POPULAR COUNCIL OF CAO DAI RELIGION (VIETNAM)
 
RUSSIAN ORTHODOX AUTONOMOUS CHURCH OF AMERICA
 
SIKHI SEWA SOCIETY - NOVELLARA (ITALY)
 
SPIRITUAL CALL OF GENEVA (SWITZERLAND)
 
ST. CHARLES INSTITUTE
 
UNION OF COUNCILS FOR JEWS IN THE FORMER SOVIET UNION (UCSJ)
 
UNITED MACEDONIAN DIASPORA
 

Individuals
 
Rev. Dr. Lennox Abrigo
CUSH DC/MD/VA (USA)
 
Sheikh Hussain Labib Abu-Rukun
Chairman
Druze Council for the Preservation of Druze Heritage, Ussafia
 
C. Naseer Ahmad
 
Leith Anderson
President
National Association of Evangelicals
 
Ivan Arjona
President
Foundation for the Improvement of Life, Culture and Society (Spain)
 
Bejzat Becirov
Executive Director
ISLAMIC CENTER Malmö
 
Professor Silvio Calzolari
Orientalist and Historian of Religions
Istituto Superiore di Studi Religiosi of Florence (Italy)
 
Anuttama Dasa
Minister of Communications
International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON)
 
Derek H. Davis, J.D., Ph.D.
Fellow, Treasurer and Board Member, International Academy of Freedom of Religion and Belief
Member, Board of Experts, International Religious Liberty Association
 
Piero d’Ettorre
Attorney
Torino (Italy)
 
Michael Donnelly
Director of Global Outreach
Home School Legal Defense Association
 
Acharya S.P.Dwivedi
President
Multifaith Action Society
Vancouver,Canada
 
Thomas F. Farr
President
Religious Freedom Institute
Barry A. Fisher
International Human Rights
Fleishman & Fisher
Los Angeles (USA)
 
Rev. E. Wayne Gaddis
Greater True Light Missionary Baptist Church
Los Angeles (USA)
 
Mike Ghouse
Center for Pluralism
Washington (USA)
 
Eric Gozlan
Responsable Associatif pour le Dialogue Interreligieux (France)
 
Brian Grim
President
Religious Freedom & Business Foundation
 
Christopher J. Hale
Executive Director
Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good
 
Lauren B. Homer
Attorney
Law and Liberty Trust
 
Dr. Joel C. Hunter
Senior Pastor
Northland, A Church Distributed
 
Rimon Kasher
Professor (Emeritus)
Bar-Ilan University (Israel)
 
Adnan Khan
Ambassador at Large
Council of Pakistan American Affairs
Muslim Community
 
Amjad Mahmood Khan, Esq.
National Director of Public Affairs
Ahmadiyya Muslim Community USA

M. Jean-Claude Kolly
Président of the CLIMS (Centre de Liaison et d’Information des Mouvements Spirituels)
Switzerland
 
Larry Lerner
President
Union of Councils for Jews in the Former Soviet Union
 
Dimitris Levantis
Attorney, Executive Member
SOS Racism (Greece)
 
Rev. N. J. L'Heureux, Jr.
Executive Director
Queens Federation of Churches
 
Brent McBurney
President & CEO
Advocates International
 
Very Reverend William A. McComish
Honorary Dean of the Cathedrale St Pierre de Genève
Founder and Honorary Président of the Spiritual Call of Geneva
 
Bishop Juan Carlos Mendez
Churches in Action
Co-Chair, Los Angeles Interfaith Clergy Coalition
 
Russell D. Moore
President
Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission
 
Gloria Moran
Law Professor (retired)
University of La Coruña (Spain)
 
Scott Morgan
President
Red Eagle Enterprises
 
Rev. Cecil L. "Chip" Murray
Professor, Center for Religion, University of Southern California (USC)
Co-Founder, The Cecil Murray Center for Community Engagement, USC

Irenée Omositsn Namboka
Retired Staff, Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights
Human Rights Protection Advisor, DPKO, United Nations Peacekeeping Mission, Liberia
 
Kathryn Cameron Porter
President and Founder
The Leadership Council for Human Rights
 
Mr. Bruno Portigliatti
Hon. President
Buddhist Union of Europe
 
Carlo Proserpio
President
Asco Pratocentenaro - Milano (Italy)
 
Bashy Quraishy
Chairman
FAIRPLAY and Ethnic Debate Forum
 
Pervez Rafique 
Former Member Parliament, Punjab Pakistan
Executive Director, Bleeding for Belief
 
Tina Ramirez
President
Hardwired, Inc.
 
Arron Rhodes
President
FOREF
 
Karan Singh
President
Sikh Foundation Switzerland
 
Rev. Dr. David A. Spence, B.A.; B.D.; M.Div.
Retired Minister
The United Church of Canada
 
Professor Daniele Spero
Coordinator of the Department of Science and Faith Fondazione Studium Cattolico Veneziano Patriarchy of Venice (Italy)

Leonid Stonov
Director, International Bureaus and Activities
Union of Councils for Jews in the Former Soviet Union
 
Dr. Katrina Lantos Swett
President
Lantos Foundation for Human Rights and Justice
 
Aldo Natale Terrin
Professor Emeritus of History of Religions
Universita' Cattolica Di Milano (Italy)
 
Chris Vonck
Rector of the Faculty for Comparative Study of Religions - Antwerp
World Congress of Faiths Belgium
 
Bill Walsh
Human Rights Attorney
Bisceglie and Walsh
 
Travis S. Weber, Esq.
Director, Center for Religious Liberty
Family Research Council
 
Rev. Janet Weiland
Co-Chair
Los Angeles Interfaith Clergy Coalition
 
Rev. Alan Wilding
President
Universal Peace Federation Western Canada
 
Mrs. Michiko Wilding
Secretary
Universal Peace Federation Western Canada
 
Peter Zoehrer
Secretary General
FOREF
 
 
[1] Monica Duffy Toft, Daniel Philpott and Timothy Samuel Shah, “God’s Century: Resurgent Religion and Global Politics.” (New York: Norton, 2011), p. 18.
[2] Brian Grim, “The Price of Freedom Denied: Religious Persecution and Conflict in the Twenty-First Century.” (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2011). Brian Grim, et al, “Is Religious Freedom Good for Business?: A Conceptual and Empirical Analysis.” Interdisciplinary Journal of Research on Religion (Volume 10: Article 4, 2014).

Rédigé par EIFRF le Thursday, August 4th 2016 | Comments (0)

Online petition to be read and signed.


Russian President Vladimir Putin: prevent implementation of the Yarovaya Law against peaceful religions

Why this is important

On 6 July 2016, President Putin signed draconian new anti-terrorism legislation (the Yarovaya Law) that will suppress religious freedom in Russia. In fact, the Yarovaya Law poses severe threats to the fundamental human rights and freedoms that are guaranteed by Russia’s Constitution and its international human rights obligations.

We are particularly concerned about the amendments that introduce an entire new section to the Religion Law, imposing strict limits on sharing beliefs, including where and who may share them, and increase extremism punishments.

As impact studies are now being done and a set of instructions are being developed for the Law’s implementation, we urge President Putin to ensure the Yarovaya Law is not used against peaceful spiritual groups. 

The Yarovaya Law represents an unprecedented assault on religious freedom that has not existed since Soviet times. It restricts the dissemination of beliefs in public to registered groups and organizations, and bars even informal sharing of beliefs by individuals acting on their own behalf. Perhaps most concerning, it restricts the beliefs that can be shared, limits the places where sharing beliefs can happen and explicitly bans sharing beliefs in residential buildings. 

The Yarovaya Law also includes amendments to the Criminal Code which will substantially increase punishments for violations of these restrictions on religious freedom. 

Russia is a great power, and with great power status comes the need to act in conformity with Russia's international human rights commitments. 

We urge President Putin to ensure that instructions for implementation of the Yarovaya Law are adopted so that the Law is not used to repress religious freedom against peaceful spiritual groups.

Rédigé par EIFRF le Saturday, July 16th 2016 | Comments (0)

Rev. Petar Gramatikov, Vice President of EIFRF, is interviewed here by the World Forum of Religions


Interview of Vice-President of EIFRF by the World Forum of Religions
In this timely interview, Bulgarian Orthodox priest and prominent interfaith leader Petar Gramatikov recalls the oppression of religion during Communism, singles out migration as a key challenge, warns against secularization and anti-clericalism but praises the togetherness of religions on this challenge, and criticizes the position of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church on the Pan-Orthodox Council.

Interview conducted by Mário Nicolini, Executive Director, Forum of the World’s Religions – Slovakia


Could you please tell us something about yourself: who and what inspired you to become a religious leader, what were the formative moments in your life and what keeps you motivated these days?

Frankly speaking, it all began in the 1980’s as a sort of dissident reaction to the totalitarian moral grammar and to the atheistic state indoctrination and ideology. Most formative in my life were certain people – firstly, the extraordinary international leaders who changed the world for the better, president Ronald Reagan and pope John-Paul II; secondly, a Western-Orthodox (of the Uniate Church in my native city of Plovdiv) archimandrite Velik, who did not fear the authorities and gave the first catechetical lessons to schoolchildren. This opened the door of the Christ’s Church for me as well.

Very important for my personal involvement in ecumenical spirituality and interfaith movement were my post-graduate specializations and studies at Hebrew University in Jerusalem, at the Swiss Ecumenical Institute Bossey of the World Council of Churches, and at the Orthodox Theological Institute of the Ecumenical Patriarchate – Chambesy/Geneva, which is a joint-venture program with the Protestant Theological Faculty of Geneva University and the Catholic Theological Faculty of Fribourg University.

What book would you recommend to every practitioner of interreligious dialogue?

I would like to recommend a small pocket-size book on the personality and deeds of a great contemporary leader of the Ecumenical Orthodoxy, His All Holiness Bartholomew, Archbishop of Constantinople, New Rome and Ecumenical Patriarch, who had a great impact on theory and practice of interreligious dialogue. He is my inspiration as an Orthodox clergyman and theologian. This is the bilingual, Greek-English, edition: Chryssavgis Fr. John, Konstantinos Delikostantis, The Patriarch of Solidarity, 2nd ed., Istanbul, Dec. 2014, 179 p.

What role did religion play during Communism in your country?

Religion in communist Bulgaria was reduced by the totalitarian authorities to a kind of folklore and cultural tradition. The Orthodox faith developed into a sort of neo-pagan practice. There is a popular saying from those times that our faithful flock became religious practitioners “on four wheels” – the first time they entered the church was for baptism, the second time for marriage and the third time for their burial and final departure from this world. It is a valid depiction also for the believers of the second largest traditional religion in Bulgaria, Islam. On the other hand, during this period of both open and hidden, both physical and psychological persecution of religion, all true believers of different ethnic and religious backgrounds were united in their suffering and struggle for human rights and religious freedom. Interfaith dialogue was natural and sincere, because in this combat for civil and religious liberties everybody – all Christian denominations, Muslim and Judaic believers – were on the same side together.

Unfortunately, during the Soviet-dominated era, no religious body protested the invasions of Hungary, Czechoslovakia or Afghanistan, nor was there ever any public protest by religious leaders against actions taken to persecute believers. Bishops and their counterparts in other religions often praised the state for its attitude toward believers. This being said, a number of courageous individuals spoke out at the cost of arrest and imprisonment.

Religious associations had only the most limited possibilities for publishing. On the rare occasions when the Bible was published, the number of printed copies was  pitifully small. Neither were religious associations permitted to import religious books from abroad. Bibles, Korans and prayer books brought to the country by visitors were confiscated at the border during grueling. Only a few institutions of religious education were permitted.

What has – and has not – changed with the Annus Mirabilis 1989?

I like this question of yours very much. Using capitalization for Annus Mirabilis points directly to the title of the poem written by John Dryden published in 1667. It commemorated the London “year of miracles”, 1665–1666, a series of tragedies that included the Great Fire of London, the Great Plague of London and some decisive battles. For Central and Eastern Europe, the year 1989 was the time of our Redemption. It was the “year of miracles” indeed, and with this term we suggest that events could have been worse. In Dryden’s view, God saved Europe from destruction. In our context, God performed miracles in Europe, liberating us from the grasp of Communist ideology and oppression. After these political changes in our part of the European continent and the elimination of fear of public expression of religious beliefs, the space opened for legal interfaith work and mutually beneficial co-operation.

What positive and negative trends  do you see in today’s Europe and how can people of faith help to reinforce the former and mitigate the latter?

Today all religious practitioners are facing secularization and anti-clerical ideologies. They are obliged to stand all together again in defense of the place of religious ethics and moral standards within the framework of Euro-Atlantic values of a United Europe. Today’s togetherness of all religions, at least on a grassroots level, is one of the positive trends.

The most negative trend in today’s Europe is the rise of nationalism and other “-isms”. Nationalism teaches you to be proud of things that you have not achieved, to hate people who you do not know.

How has the migration crisis affected the political, social and interreligious dynamics in Bulgaria and South East Europe? What should be done by civic and religious groups?

The migration crisis affects Bulgaria like the rest of Europe. But it is poverty, an everyday challenge for Bulgarians, which discourages many refugees from seeking shelter in Europe’s poorest nation. “Poverty is a weapon of mass destruction: we need war on it”, said Reverend Jesse Jackson, an iconic American civil rights activist in 2014. Nowadays, much like the US, we are freer — but less equal. The civic and and religious groups are obliged to influence the political milieu and decision-makers in our respective countries to implement the right instruments and standards for the most humane solutions possible regarding resettlement, socialization and integration of refugees in Europe.

What is to be expected of the Holy Synod of the Orthodox Church in Crete? Would it have effect on developments in Bulgaria?

The Russian Orthodox Church is using the stance of the Bulgarian Church as an excuse for not participating in the Synod. The Russian Church will not participate in the Council due to the “non-participation of some of the local Orthodox Churches” and the “breach of the principle of consensus” adopted by the Rules of the Assembly. According to the media, three days before the Bulgarian decision, Russian Patriarch Kiril sent nearly an ultimatum to Patriarch Bartholomew, stating that in case of non-compliance, the Russian Church will not attend the council. Indeed, the letter of the Bulgarian Synod copies parts 4, 5 and 6 of Kiril’s letter.

This is the second time the Bulgarian Orthodox Church (BOC) is “taking a position” on the demands of the Russian Church. In January the BOC surprised the world just ten days before the meeting of the primates of the Orthodox sister-churches by conditioning its participation on the settlement of the status of the Czech-Slovak Metropolitan, His Eminence Rostislav. Rostislav had been elected and recognized as Metropolitan by the Moscow Patriarchate, but not by the Ecumenical Patriarchate and other local Orthodox churches. As a result of this Bulgarian ultimatum, which threatened to jeopardize the meeting of the primates, the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew acknowledged Rostislav as the Czech-Slovak Metropolitan.

Now the Bulgarian Church is doing the same thing, presenting Russian claims as its own, which reinforces suspicions about its autonomy in making such important decisions on the life of the church. Orthodoxy is not in danger. We are in danger of finding ourselves outside of Orthodoxy!

How are interfaith efforts regarded by the dominant church in your country today? Do you find resonance with the minority churches, religions, spiritual groups?

Today, there are opinions that the problem with the pan-Orthodox Council is due to the fact that now the situation is different than before, when the Ecumenical Councils were controlled by the emperors. Expectations and hopes that the Church and the State still cooperate closely are still present in Orthodoxy. The Catholics and the Protestants have already realized their separation from the State. Many churches will have to realize it for themselves. There is some internal resentment to this dynamic in many Churches due to the fact that they are not accustomed to make decisions on their own. They are closely connected with the state and the church leadership remains too far from the people.

Read more

 

Rédigé par EIFRF le Tuesday, June 28th 2016 | Comments (0)

French administration recognizes the Philanthropic General Interest character of EIFRF
French administration recognizes the Philanthropic General Interest character of EIFRF.

Last year, EIFRF requested the French fiscal administration to grant EIFRF the status of "pursuing an aim of philanthropic general interest". This status in France allows the donators to deduct 66% of the amount of their donations from their annual taxes. The criteria are very strict, but we were adamant on the fact that EIFRF meets them.

The French fiscal administration refused to grant this status in December. 

So EIFRF appealed that decision before a special college of the French fiscal administration. EIFRF President has been heard by the college in April, in plenary session, to explain the reasons why EIFRF was challenging the first decision.

EIFRF received the final decision of the college today*, and it won! 

French administration granted EIFRF the requested status, so EIFRF is now recognized as pursuing an aim of philanthropic general interest, tax exempted as well as able to have its donators deducting their donations from their annual taxes.

Here is an excerpt of the decision:

"Acting in particular to enhance tolerance between believers of different religions and between believers and atheists, and in favor of peace, non-violence, dialogue of cultures and the meeting between religions, the philanthropic character of EIFRF can be recognized." 


* The decision is dated June 6, 2016

Rédigé par EIFRF le Wednesday, June 8th 2016 | Comments (2)

On April 2, several organizations and individuals, participation to the International Religious Freedom Roundtable either in Europe or in US, wrote to the Knesset in Israel about the Law Proposal for the Handling of Harmful Cults 2015. Here is the letter with the signatories.


Several organisations write to the Knesset, including EIFRF
Dear Members of the Knesset,

We write as an informal group of organizations and individuals who are scholars, religious leaders, human rights advocates and practitioners to express our deep concern about the Law Proposal for the Handling of Harmful Cults 2015. We understand this Law Proposal has already passed its Preliminary Vote and was referred to the Committee on Law, Constitution and Justice to be processed in preparation for submission to the Knesset for a First Vote.

We are a truly multi-faith group, representing a high degree of diversity. While there is very little we agree on theologically, or politically, we all agree on the importance of religious freedom for all faiths and none. It strengthens cultures and provides the foundation for stable democracies and their components, including civil society, economic growth, and social harmony. As such, it is also the ultimate counter-terrorism weapon, pre-emptively undermining religious extremism.

We are aware of the difficulties Israel faces regarding such religious issues, and it deserves our empathy as such. Yet, we respectfully urge members of the Knesset to reject this Law Proposal for the Handling of Harmful Cults because of threats it poses to the fundamental human rights and freedoms that are formally recognized in the Declaration of the Establishment of the State of Israel and protected by the Basic Law on Human Dignity and Liberty, decisions of the Supreme Court of Israel, international human rights covenants—especially the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR)—and customary international law.

When evaluated within these legal frameworks, the Law Proposal raises a number of serious problems. Distinguished academic scholars and legal experts from Israel, Europe and the United States have made valid points in voicing great concerns “in view of the manifest violations of the rights of religious organizations, the generalities inherent in the proposed law’s language, and the abuses it would perpetuate in Israeli society.”

Specifically, the issues of concern articulated by these scholars and legal experts are detailed in the bullet points below.
From the Position Paper of the MEIDA Center at the Van Leer Jerusalem Institute:

 The definition (of “Harmful Cult”) relies on the theory of “Mind Control,” which is not accepted in academic research and was rejected by legislative bodies and the supreme courts in Israel and abroad. Moreover, this concept negates the belief in the personal autonomy and responsibility of individuals and their accountability for their actions (the Israeli Supreme Court dealt extensively in the case of the followers of Elior Hen).

 Appointing a custodian to a legal adult who has chosen freely to join a group, even if a harmful one, is a disproportionate violation of individual autonomy, without any proper academic and psychological backing.

 Our position is that the existing laws in the Israeli legal corpus are sufficient, and the new law is unnecessary. The State of Israel has no difficulty in indicting and convicting cult leaders under existing criminal offenses. See, e.g., the convictions of Goel Ratzon (sentenced to thirty years in prison) and D.A. (sentenced to twenty-six years in prison).

From Tel Aviv University Professor Asa Kasher:

 The law proposal is incompatible with the moral and judicial fundamental principles of the State of Israel, both as a Democratic State and as a Jewish State, the Nation-State of the Jewish people.

 Preventing criminal offenses in a religious denomination is not a proper purpose for imposing legal restrictions on the general operation of a religious denomination.

From Patricia Duval, an international human rights attorney in France:

 The European Court of Human Rights, in Jehovah’s Witnesses of Moscow v. Russia on 10 June 2010, found that “there is no generally accepted and scientific definition of what constitutes ‘mind control’” (§129). The Court noted that, “as long as self-dedication to religious matters is the product of the believer’s independent and free decision and however unhappy his or her family members may be about that decision,” the believers’ rights has to be protected.

 Classifying religious groups into “religions” and “cults” is a violation of international human rights standards, especially the ICCPR. It is impermissible and arbitrary for the government to confer protection on “religions” while denying protection and enacting oppressive measures against “cults.”

 The UN Human Rights Committee elaborated a General Comment 22 to detail what the construction and application of the Article 18 of the ICCPR should be. General Comment 22 finds that freedom of religion is not limited in its application to traditional religions and that any tendency to discriminate against any religion or belief for any reason, including the fact that they are newly established, or represent religious minorities that may be the subject of hostility by a predominant religious community, contravenes Article 18 of the ICCPR.

From an open letter to members of the Knesset by a group of distinguished academic scholars from the United States and many other countries:

 Viewed from abroad, what is going on in Israel appears as a curious remake of the “cult wars” that we witnessed decades ago in the United States and Europe. As it happened during the “cult wars” a small number of apostates, who were not typical of the majority of members who left the new religious movements harboring no particular grievance against them, were promoted by the moral entrepreneurs of the anti-cult movement. They were mistaken for typical ex-members and received a disproportionate attention by certain media.

 Those who support the law rely on the experiences of a few disgruntled ex-members. In some cases, less than ten ex-members are regarded as the only reliable sources about groups including thousands of followers.

 Militant anti-cultists have a very limited and partial experience of the groups they criticize based on the anecdotal stories of a few former members, unlike professional scholars who use broader quantitative and qualitative methods and whose works, before being published, are thoroughly reviewed by their peers.

From Dr. H. Newton Maloney, a retired senior professor from the Fuller Theological Seminary in the United States:

 The supporters of this law promote the same theories used by anti-religious deprogrammers to justify kidnapping members of various faiths in the United States (including Jews and Christians as well as new religious movements) and beating them into renouncing their faiths, a criminal practice that has resulted in criminal convictions and multi-million dollar judgments against individuals in the former United States anti-religious movement. By 1987, the American Psychological Association had rejected these theories as unscientific. And even in recent years, two United States Courts (including a Federal Appeals Court) have rejected this spurious theory.

 Thus, in the United States, the “debate” in which the Knesset is now engaged about whether any religion “brainwashes” its adherents, was concluded and relegated to historical commentary as an incident of prejudicial hysteria brought on by a quack psychologist.

If Israel adopts this Law Proposal, it will have taken a major step backwards in terms of religious freedom, tolerance and the rights of religious minorities. The Law Proposal should be rejected. Thank you for your consideration.

Respectfully,

ORGANIZATIONS

21st CENTURY WILBERFORCE INITIATIVE (UNITED STATES)

ALL FAITH NETWORK – AFN (UK)

CAPLC-EUROPEAN COORDINATION FOR FREEDOM OF CONSCIENCE (FRANCE)

CHURCH OF SCIENTOLOGY NATIONAL AFFAIRS OFFICE (UNITED STATES)

EUROPEAN FEDERATION FOR FREEDOM OF BELIEF – FOB (ITALY)

EUROPEAN INTERRELIGIOUS FORUM FOR RELIGIOUS FREEDOM – EIFRF

THE GERARD NOODT FOUNDATION (NETHERLANDS)

INTERNATIONAL INSTITUTE FOR RELIGIOUS FREEDOM

RUSSIAN ORTHODOX AUTONOMOUS CHURCH OF AMERICA (UNITED STATES)

Individuals

Sheikh Hussain Labib Abu-Rukun
Chairman
Druze Council for the Preservation of the Druze Heritage, Ussafia

Father Aethelwine
Orthodox Chaplain
York St John University (UK)

Raffaella Di Marzio
Psychologist of Religion
Member of the Managing Board, Italian Society of Psychology of Religion (SIPR) Member of the Editorial Board, Psychology of Religion e-Journal (PRej)

Danny Diskin
Interfaith Alliance, UK

Patricia Duval
Human Rights Attorney, Paris, France

Dan Fefferman
President
International Coalition for Religious Freedom

Professor Urbano Alonso Galan
Doctor in Philosophy and a Licenciate in Theology (cum Laude) Gregorian University and the Saint Bonaventure Pontifical Faculty, Rome

Dr. Joel C. Hunter
Senior Pastor
Northland - A Church Distributed

Professor (Emeritus) Rimon Kasher
Bar-Ilan University

Adnan Ul Haq Khan
Ambassador at Large
Council of Pakistan American Affairs

Greg Mitchell
President, The Mitchell Firm
Co-Chair, International Religious Freedom Roundtable

Geoffrey Morris
Secretary
Elmbridge Multifaith Forum

Revd Dr Kevin Snyman
Synod Mission Enabler,
West Midlands Synod, United Reformed Church, UK

William C. Walsh
Human Rights Attorney
Bisceglie & Walsh

Rédigé par EIFRF le Tuesday, April 5th 2016 | Comments (0)

על המכתב חתומים עשרים ושלושה ארגונים לזכויות אדם, קואליציות דתיות ואינדיבידואלים, כולל יהודים, מוסלמים, דרוזים, נוצרים, אתאיסטים ובני דתות ואמונות אחרות. לנוחותכם, ההקדמה למטה. את המכתב כולו, בנוסף לדף הסבר על ארגון "השולחן העגול לחופש דת בינלאומי" ניתן להוריד בלינק בסוף העמוד - כרגע רק באנגלית.


השולחן העגול לחופש דת בינלאומי, אשר יושב בוושינגטון די.סי. ופועל בשיתוף עם חברי קונגרס, מנהיגי דת ושגרירים מרחבי העולם שולח מכתב פתוח לחברי הכנסת בנוגע לחוק נגד כתות
Dear Members of the Knesset,

Attached you will find an open non-governmental organization (NGO) letter to Members of the Knesset, which was jointly organized by the International Religious Freedom Roundtables in Washington, D.C., and Europe; and a one-page overview and purpose statement of the International Religious Freedom Roundtable, which explains what it is and what we are working to achieve.

 
You will see that 23 organizations and individuals from Israel, Europe and the United States signed this open NGO letter to express our deep concern about the Law Proposal for the Handling of Harmful Cults 2015.
 
As the letter states, the 23 signers of the letter are a truly multi-faith group, representing a high degree of diversity. While there is very little we agree on theologically, or politically, we all agree on the importance of religious freedom for all faiths and none.
 
We know you share our views on the importance of religious freedom, so we understand the difficulties Israel faces regarding this issue. Yet, we respectfully urge you to reject this Law Proposal for the Handling of Harmful Cults because of threats it poses to the fundamental human rights and freedoms that are formally recognized in the Declaration of the Establishment of the State of Israel and protected by the Basic Law on Human Dignity and Liberty, decisions of the Supreme Court of Israel, international human rights covenants—especially the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR)—and customary international law.
 
When evaluated within these legal frameworks, the Law Proposal raises a number of serious problems. Distinguished academic scholars and legal experts from Israel, Europe and the United States have made valid points in voicing great concerns “in view of the manifest violations of the rights of religious organizations, the generalities inherent in the proposed law’s language, and the abuses it would perpetuate in Israeli society.”
 
The letter lists several such concerns and concludes by expressing our belief that if Israel adopts this Law Proposal, it will have taken a major step backwards in terms of religious freedom, tolerance and the rights of religious minorities. The Law Proposal should be rejected. Thank you for your consideration.
 
With best regards,
Greg
 
Greg Mitchell
Co-Chair, International Religious Freedom Roundtable
Washington, D.C.
1-202-669-4065

Rédigé par EIFRF le Monday, April 4th 2016 | Comments (0)

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