European Interreligious Forum For Religious Freedom
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En février, une lettre aux politiciens français à été envoyée et signée par plusieurs organisations et personnalités, dont EIFRF, sur le sujet des amalgames et des principes à respecter dans le traitement du fait religieux en France, notamment à l'égard de l'Islam. Vous pouvez lire cette lettre ici :  

Le Chef de cabinet du Président a répondu le 3 mars.

Vous pouvez voir sa réponse ici : 
France : réponse du Président de la République à une lettre ouverte aux politiciens français

Rédigé par EIFRF le Friday, March 6th 2015 | Comments (0)

In February, EIFRF with several co-signatories have sent an open letter to French politicians, which you can find here:

We received yesterday an answer from the Director of the French President cabinet.

The French Presidency letter acknowledges our message and says:

"Touched by your approach, the Head of the State entrusted me with the task of thanking you and assuring you that he is more than ever aware of the concerns you express.

Be certain of his determination to fight against amalgams, anti-Muslim words and deeds, which are contrary to the very foundations of our republican pact and should, as such, be denounced and fought.

President François Hollande reminded forcefully that no one should live in France in fear because of his origins or beliefs. Also, the dialogue with religions is for him is a duty. It strengthens social cohesion of our republic."

Here is the copy of the original:
French Presidency's answer to multi-signatories letter to French politicians

Rédigé par EIFRF le Friday, March 6th 2015 | Comments (0)

Here is the invitation to this roundtable meeting.

Next IRF Roundtable in Europe meeting - 12 March in Brussels
IRF Roundtable Europe in Brussels
Meeting Thursday March 12, 2015
From 14h00 to 16h30 – Be there!
At the Renaissance Hotel – Room Lisbon - Rue du Parnasse 19 - Brussels
2 minutes walk from the EU Parliament

Refreshments and hot drinks will be provided
Please confirm your presence by email to
With your name, post and the NGO you are belonging to.
The IRF Roundtable is an informal group of individuals from non-governmental organizations who gather regularly to discuss IRF issues on a non-attribution basis. It is simply a safe space where participants gather, speak freely in sharing ideas and information, and propose joint, multi-faith advocacy actions to address specific IRF issues and problems. The Roundtable is informal to the point of being routinely referred to as a “non-group,” and this is an inclusive, participant-driven space that is open to anybody and everybody. Each individual participant has an open and equal opportunity to place specific items on the agenda, speak at meetings, design and launch initiatives, self-select into coalitions of the willing and participate in joint advocacy actions. And we are truly multi-faith in nature. We all agree on the importance of religious freedom, and we work together on the basis of mutual respect and understanding. Participants are under no obligation to take any action whatsoever. And each joint, multi-faith advocacy action is undertaken solely by, and on behalf of, the individual participants who self-selected into that specific coalition of the willing. Each report, minute or reference to or on the roundtable meetings are written in respect to the principle of non-attribution, to allow freedom and safety of expression during the meetings for all participants.

Rédigé par EIFRF le Monday, February 23rd 2015 | Comments (0)

ECHR refuses to review Church of Scientology win against Russia

Original article on Rapsi news:

MOSCOW, February 18 (RAPSI) - European Court for Human Rights (ECHR) has refused to review an appeal filed by Russian Federation over the ECHR decision in favor of unregistered Church of Scientology over the refusal of St. Petersburg authorities to officially recognize it as a legal entity, says the court ruling made public on Wednesday.

According to the ruling, the application was filed by Church of Scientology in St. Petersburg, which was formed by a group of individuals gathered together for research of Scientology. The first group was formed in St. Petersburg in 1984, which in the late 80’s splintered into two organizations, one of which was headed by Galina Shurinova (one of the six applicants).

The present application concerned the refusal of St. Petersburg authorities to acknowledge it as a legal entity. The group applied for registration six times, from March 1995 to August 2003.

The first application was filed by Shurinova with other nine founders of the St. Petersburg Church of Mission of Scientology in March 1995. Upon receiving no answer over the course of two years, Shurinova demanded an explanation from the authorities. Russian Justice Ministry informed her, that the application was transferred to a State Duma committee, to be evaluated by an expert in religious and legal matters. Following lack of response, the application was shelved.

In February 2002, a new registration request was filed, which was rejected in March of the same year, citing discrepancies in required paperwork. Scientologists filed four more registration requests, which were all subsequently turned down under a number of reasons. In the last rejection in August of 2003, the St. Petersburg authorities stated that the documents proving that the group was active for the last 15 years (time period necessary to register a new religious organization), were fraudulent.

The Scientologist turned to a district court in St. Petersburg, which declared the rejections legal in October 2003, and was supported by an appeals court in 2006.

The applicants turned to ECHR in November 2006. Citing article 9 of the European Convention on Human Rights (a right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion), and article 11 Article ( the right to freedom of assembly and association), the applicants contested in their opinion unlawful rejections to register the Church of Scientology as a legal entity.

The Russian response confirmed that the rejections were in violation of freedom of religion, pointing out that the decision in the case was based on the Russian law and security reasons. Russia further pointed to similar cases reviewed by the ECHR concerning UK and Austria.

The ECHR upon reviewing the application, ruled in favor of Scientologists, awarding them 7,500 EUR as moral damages compensation.

Russia requested that case be referred to the Grand Chamber the Grand Chamber of ECHR. However, Grand Chamber refused to review an appeal. Therefore the Court ruling came into effect.

Read original:

Rédigé par EIFRF le Friday, February 20th 2015 | Comments (0)

Den Europæiske Menneskerettighedsdomstol afviser appel af Scientologi Kirkens sejr over Rusland
MOSKVA, den 18. februar (RAPSI) - Den Europæiske Menneskerettighedsdomstol har afvist at behandle en appel indgivet af Den Russiske Føderation af domstolens afgørelse til fordel for den ikke-registrerede Scientologi Kirke vedrørende St. Petersborgs myndigheders afvisning af officielt at anerkende den som en juridisk enhed, fremgår det af den domsafsigelse, der blev offentliggjort onsdag.
Ifølge afgørelsen blev ansøgningen indgivet af Scientologi Kirken i St. Petersborg, der blev dannet af en persongruppe, der samledes for at forske i Scientologi. Den første gruppe blev dannet i St. Petersborg i 1984. Den delte sig i slutningen af 80'erne i to organisationer, hvor den ene blev ledet af Galina Shurinova (en af de seks ansøgere).
Den nuværende ansøgning vedrørte et afslag fra St. Petersborgs myndigheder på at anerkende den som en juridisk enhed. Gruppen ansøgte om registrering seks gange fra marts 1995 til august 2003.
Den første ansøgning blev indgivet af Shurinova sammen med ni andre grundlæggere af St. Petersborgs Scientologi Missionskirke i marts 1995. Da de ikke havde modtaget noget svar i løbet efter to år, krævede Shurinova en forklaring fra myndighederne. Det russisk justitsministerium informeret hende om, at ansøgningen var overdraget til et udvalg i Statsdumaen for at blive behandlet af en ekspert i religiøse og juridiske forhold. Da der ikke kom noget svar, blev ansøgningen lagt på hylden.
I februar 2002 blev der indgivet en ny ansøgning om registrering. Den blev afvist i marts samme år, med henvisning til uoverensstemmelser i det krævede papirarbejde. Scientologerne indgav fire yderlige ansøgninger, der alle efterfølgende blev afslået med forskellige begrundelser. I den sidste afvisning fra august 2003, hævdede myndighederne i St. Petersborg, at de dokumenter, der beviste, at gruppen havde været aktiv de sidste 15 år (den krævede tidsperiode for at registrere en ny religiøs organisation) var svigagtige.

Scientologen henvendte sig til en lokal domstol i St. Petersborg, der erklærede, at de juridiske afslag var gyldige i oktober 2003, hvilket blev stadfæstet i en appeldomstol i 2006.
Ansøgerne henvendte sig til Den Europæiske Menneskerettighedsdomstol i november 2006. Med henvisning til artikel 9 i Den Europæiske Menneskerettighedskonvention (retten til at tænke frit og til samvittigheds- og religionsfrihed), artikel 11 (retten til frit at deltage i fredelige forsamlinger og til foreningsfrihed), anfægtede sagsøgerne de efter deres opfattelse ulovlige afslag på at registrere Scientologi Kirken som en juridisk enhed.
Det russiske svar bekræftede, at afslagene var i strid med religionsfriheden, idet det blev påpeget, at afgørelsen i sagen var baseret på den russiske lov og sikkerhedsmæssige begrundelser. Rusland henviste endvidere til lignende sager, der blev behandlet af Den Europæiske Menneskerettighedsdomstol i forbindelse med Storbritannien og Østrig.
Efter at have gennemgået ansøgningen gav Den Europæiske Menneskerettighedsdomstol scientologerne medhold og tildelte dem 7.500 euro i tortserstatning.
Rusland anmodede om, at sagen blev henvist til Storkammeret i Den Europæiske Menneskerettighedsdomstol, men Storkammeret afviste at behandle apellen. Domstolens afgørelse blev således stadfæstet.

Læs den originale artikel her:

Rédigé par EIFRF le Friday, February 20th 2015 | Comments (0)

Romanian court completely acquits the 21 people from MISA yoga school accused of human trafficking

After more than 10 years, the Romanian court completely acquitted the 21 people from MISA yoga school, accused of human trafficking.  For ten years, the media has continued a witch hunt on MISA yoga school, who is now fully acquitted of all accusations. The decision found much of the evidence put forth by the prosecution to be unfounded or illegal. Again we face a large scale fake-trial against a spiritual movement, with grave violations of the fundamental rights of thousands of yoga practitioners.

The trial was part of the internationally questioned Romanian campaign against the MISA yoga school. The campaign started in 2004 with the largest police action in post-communist Romanian history. Under the pretext of national security, 300 armed gendarmes raided 16 private houses belonging to yogis. The yoga school was accused of paramilitary activity and the attack was conducted under the code name „Operation Christ”. The raid was filmed and leaked to the media the same day. The images and reports triggered international criticism among European politicians and human rights organizations, including Amnesty International and The Romanian Helsinki Commission APADOR-CH. The Danish Member of European Parliament at that time, Mrs Ulla Sandbaek, advised the leader of the yoga school to immediately flee the persecutions and ask for asylum in Sweden. The Swedish Supreme Court found him innocent and gave him asylum, being persecuted due to his religious beliefs.

For a decade the persecutions continued in Romania against Mr Bivolaru and his students, with long trials based on false accusations, media and social stigmatization of tens of thousands of yogis. Finally the accusations have now been dropped and Romania must aim to heal the wounds caused by the on-going marginalization of a major religious minority. 

The political scientist, human rights activist and founder of APADOR-CH Mr Gabriel Andreescu has written two books on the on-going persecution of the Romanian yoga school. He states that there will not be any human rights in Romania until the persecution is stopped, and that the victims must be compensated.

Most of the trials initiated in the persecutions of 2004 have ended in full acquittal. So far no compensation has been discussed. Unfortunately the trial against Mr Bivolaru took a much critiqued turn as he, after being acquitted in first and second instance, was convicted to six years imprisonment in absentia. As Romania is today part of the European Union and Mr Bivolaru received asylum in Sweden because of precisely these persecutions, the conviction followed by a European Arrest Warrant has triggered a unique and highly disturbing situation, where a refugee is both protected and persecuted within for the same accusations within one and the same judicial system. 

It is not unusual for spiritual schools to be falsely accused of human trafficking. At the OSCE HDIM 2014 Soteria International highlighted this problem both in Germany (Deutche Academie fur Traditionelles Yoga) and Italy (Ananda Assisi).  Ananda Assisi is a Yoga organization which over 2002 - 2009 was the subject of such a judicial inquiry, facing accusations of being a sect which “enslaved” people by forcing them to work without being paid, and other accusations including the premise that Ananda was a “pseudo-religion”. People were harassed and came under social pressure, were taken to court and eventually imprisoned. After more years of investigation, the judge dismissed the case. Also here the European Union face a major question mark: why do these false accusations continue to surface regarding minor religious or spiritual movements, such as the Romanian yoga school MISA.

The Acquittal of MISA yoga school in the court trial from Cluj is available on this link:

Here is the English translation:

Rédigé par Soteria International le Friday, February 20th 2015 | Comments (0)

This sign-on letter is being sent to a hundred of French politicians:

Open letter to French politicians
Dear French politicians,
Recently, as we are all aware, France was devastated by two terrorist attacks which led millions to take to the streets to protest against terrorism; express their commitment to respect for human life and their desire to live in a country where disagreements are not resolved with Kalashnikovs; a country where one is not killed just because he is a Jew or because one has offended the religious feelings of others; a country where law is respected and freedom of conscience protected.
The heinous attacks have been rightly condemned with the utmost firmness by the entire French political class, and we support you fully in this process.
Unfortunately, the fact that the attacks were perpetrated by criminals claiming to be following Islam, is not only used to justify the stigmatization of Islam and its followers, but leads to an exacerbation of hostility towards religions and to an escalation of misinterpretations and exaggerations that are no credit to anyone.
As revealed by the National Observatory Against Islamophobia, since these attacks the number of hostile acts against Muslims have more than doubled in the country.
The confusion between what terrorism is, what is claimed in the name of religion, and the practice of religion, even though it may be diligent and ardent, is the breeding ground for a social fracture that will not help anyone and will do nothing to stem the criminal extremism we all want to see removed from society.
When politicians confuse the fact of a child "going to prayer" with "radical extremism", when it is said that because a young woman chooses to "wear the veil" it is "sectarian abuse" which leads to" Islamist radicalisation", we are going through a dangerous political positioning which leads us away, each day a little more, from the core values that led to the birth and development of the French Republic.
When a 9 year old child is taken to the police station and interrogated for "advocating terrorism" because he said "Allah Akbar, long live the Koran," and then the only issue that challenges our journalists is to know whether or not he actually uttered the words without even clarifying that saying “God is great” and praising a sacred book cannot be mistaken or equated with terrorism, then we can actually fear for even worse abuses in the future.
The choice of terms is also important in these periods. It does not follow that a religious practice must be "moderate" or otherwise equated with being extremist or terrorism. Moderation may be seen as a valuable virtue, but the application of this term to a religious practice, as if to practice without moderation was a crime, can only lead to a false vision of what we need to fight.
A "fatwa" is not a "call to murder", but a legal advice given by a specialist of Islamic law on a particular issue. The "Jihad", although the term has been overused by groups claiming to be Islamic is not for all Muslims synonymous with terrorism. It is necessary to clarify the use of these terms in the future in order to properly describe, and not demonise, the beliefs of the vast majority of Muslims. A Muslim who practices the "great jihad", i.e. the fight against his own evil inclinations, cannot identify with a message that encourages him to "stop jihadism," even if he understands that the intention is to stop terrorists.
We all agree on condemning terrorism, whether it is the work of criminals claiming any religion or none. Terrorism is not a religion, it is one of the worst forms of crime that exists, and it is a crime for political purposes.
We all agree that the recent events should lead to a strong and effective response to prevent what is called radicalization and the fight against terrorism.
For this, it is imperative to foster greater understanding of what the religions practiced on French territory are, and to avoid confusion that leads to exclusion, stigmatization and denigration of an important part of the French population.
Beliefs and religious practice are freedoms guaranteed by the French Constitution and law and the great strength of France is its secularism that should actually protect every citizen's freedom of conscience and their right to freely practice the religion of their choice. Misuse of this secularism could be the tomb of our “living together”, the tomb of a public order that would bury together individual freedoms, feelings of belonging to the nation and social peace.
In France there are many interfaith initiatives which show every day that it is possible to live together, to understand each other without having to adopt the religion of others and to live one’s faith by giving the other the right to live theirs fully too. Nothing replaces understanding. It stems among other things from education to principles underlying fundamental freedoms, but also education on what really are different religions.
We encourage you to support these initiatives and to support actions that go in the direction of a greater understanding between the French people, whatever their religious beliefs, or whether they have one or not, and we are at your disposal to participate in this vital effort not only for France, but also for the whole of Europe.
Respectfully yours,
CAPLC (European coordination for freedom of conscience)
Aïcha le Strat
Attorney at law at the Paris Bar
Asif Arif
Attorney at law at the Paris Bar
Lecturer at Paris Dauphine University
Director - Cultures et Croyances
Secretary General EIFRF France
Mariam Barandi
Forum of European Muslim Youth and Students Organizations
Danny Diskin
Interfaith Alliance – UK
Prof. Gwen Griffith-Dickson
Director – The Lokahi Foundation – UK
Catherine Orsborn
Director – Shoulder to Shoulder
Program/Research Associate "Religion and Social Cohesion in Conflict-Affected Societies," at DU's Korbel School of International Studies.
Eric Roux
Chair – EIFRF
Shiromani Akali Dal (France)
French Sikhs Association
Rabinda Singh Sohil
Chair Sikh International Council
Revd Dr Kevin Snyman
Synod Mission Enabler
West Midlands Synod United Reformed Church
Martin Weightman
Director – All Faith Network, UK

Rédigé par EIFRF le Monday, February 16th 2015 | Comments (0)

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