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Iványi Gábor örömhírről és a további küzdelemről: Megvan a tízezer!

30 09 2013

HUNGARIAN EDITION

Az Iványi Gábor vezette Magyarországi Evangéliumi Testvérközösséghez felhívása az elmúlt napokban bejárta az internetet, tömegesen osztották meg a Facebook-on. A vallási közösség arra kérte az embereket: támogassák tagsági nyilatkozatukkal az egyházukat. Egy hónapon belül tízezer aláírást kellett összegyűjteniük ahhoz, hogy a Parlament szavazzon arról: „bevett egyháznak” minősíti-e őket. Ez a feltétele annak, hogy Iványiék állami támogatást kaphassanak hajléktalanszállójuk, iskoláik fenntartásához. A lelkész a 168ora.hu-nak nyilatkozott először arról, hogy akciójuk sikerrel járt. Ám a neheze még hátra van. 

Ivanyi Gabor

Fotó: Kocsis Zoltán / Népszabadság

– Sikerült összegyűjteni a tízezer támogatót. Gratulálunk!

– Kemény időszakon vagyon túl, húsz napunk sem volt a támogatások megszerzésére. Csak szeptember 10-én tudtuk elkezdeni az aláírásgyűjtést, és 27-én már átléptük a tízezres határt. Sokan önkéntesen segítettek nekünk. Nem folytattunk toborzást, nem rendeztünk kampányt, mert ez ellenkezik az elveinkkel. Csupán arra kértük azokat, akik ismernek minket: ha fontosnak tartják a munkánkat, fejezzék ki azzal, hogy mellénk állnak.

– Lelkészként végiggondolta, miért kapták ezt az újabb próbatételt?

– Bíztunk abban, hogy meglesznek a támogatások, de ilyen mértékű szolidaritásra, ennyi önzetlen gesztusra nem számítottuk. Egyik lányom írta: az elmúlt évtizedekben mindig feltétel nélkül segítettünk a hozzánk fordulóknak. Nem vártunk érte se köszönetet, se hálát. Most mi kerültünk olyan helyzetbe, hogy mások segítségére szorultunk. És legalább ugyanannyi feltétel nélküli szeretet kaptunk vissza. Ez megrendítő, új érzés. Rengeteg erőt ad nekünk a szolgálatunk folytatásához.

– Az országgyűlés augusztusban újra módosította az egyházi törvényt. Azok a vallási szervezetek, amelyektől korábban megvonták az egyházi minősítést, visszakapják titulusukat. Ugyanakkor a Parlament dönt arról: ki lehet közülük kiemelt, „bevett egyház”. Csak ők juthatnak az egyházaknak járó plusz állami támogatásokhoz, adókedvezményeket. Az újabb módosítást az alaptörvényben is rögzítették.

– Ez az egész csupán cinikus politikai játszma. Az Alkotmánybíróság és az Európai Tanács Velencei Bizottsága is törvénytelennek nyilvánította a Fidesz korábbi, 2011-es egyházi törvényét. A vallásszabadság megsértése miatt az Unió és Amerika is többször elítélte az Orbán-kormányt. A nyomásnak engedve írták át újból az egyházi törvényt. Ebben látszólag engedményeket tettek, visszakaptuk az egyházi nevet. Valójában azonban tovább nehezítették a vallási közösségek helyzetét. Például új szabályként elrendelték, hogy csakis az válhat „bevett egyházzá” aki tízezer tagot igazol. Különben a személyi adó 1 százalékát sem igényelhetik, és minden más kedvezménytől is elesnek. A politika tehát ugyanúgy diszkriminál a vallási szervezetek és hitelvek között. Ilyen a civilizált világban sehol nincs.

– A hazai kisegyházak közül egyedül önök gyűjtötték össze a tízezer támogatót. A többiek meg se próbálták?

– A hatalmi önkénybe sokan belefáradtak, elfásultak. Reménytelennek látják a küzdelmet. Mi viszont úgy gondoltuk: miért könnyítsük meg a Fidesz dolgát azzal, hogy meg se próbáljuk a feltételeit teljesíteni? Egyeztettünk több kisegyház vezetőjével is. Akadt, aki elmondta: elvi alapon sem akar belemenni az újabb politikai megmérettetésbe. „Bevett egyház” ugyanis kormányzati előírás szerint csak az lehet, aki a közös társadalmi célok érdekében alkalmas az együttműködésre. Hogy ez pontosan mit jelent, senki sem tudja. De az egyházfők közül többen úgy értelmezik: hűségnyilatkozatot kellene tenniük a kormánynak. És erre nem hajlandók.

– Önök aláírták az együttműködési nyilatkozatot?

– Semmiféle nyilatkozatot nem nyújtunk be. Nem hiszem, hogy ennyi év után bizonygatnunk kellene társadalmi elkötelezettségünket. Több, mint húsz iskolát tartunk fenn, 3200 szegény, hátrányos helyzetű gyermeknek biztosítunk tanulási felzárkózási lehetőséget. Hajléktalan szállót és kórházat működtetünk, öt idősek otthonát. 800 embernek adunk munkát. A parlamenti képviselőknek lelkiismeretük alapján kell eldönteniük, érdemlünk-e egyházi támogatást. Minden képviselőt levélben fogom kérni: valóban tiszta lelkiismerete szerint ítélkezzen rólunk. S ezt nyílt levélben is közzé teszem.

– A tízezer támogató névjegyzékét is eljuttatják a kormányhivatalba? Mi a garancia arra, hogy nem kerülnek az adatok a „Kubatov listára?”

– A törvény azt írja elő: a támogatásokat igazolásra alkalmas módon kell benyújtanunk. Felkértünk egy közjegyzőt, ő hitelesíti a dokumentumokat, és az ő igazolását nyújtjuk be. A névjegyzéket nem adjuk ki, erre nem kötelezhetnek minket. Ilyen elvárásai még az átkosban sem voltak az akkori Egyházügyi Hivatalnak, a rendőröknek is megtagadtuk, hogy listázzák a tagjainkat. Most sem fogjuk engedni.

– Pedig a Fidesz-kormány tényleg lojalitást vár azoktól egyházaktól, amelyeknek kegyeket osztogat.

– Minden törvényes feltételt teljesítettük. egyéb pártszolgálatokra szabad embereket nem kényszeríthetnek. Ha mégis elutasítják a kérelmünket, egyértelműen bebizonyítják: politikai alapon szelektálnak az egyházak között.

– Miikor határoz a Parlament?

– Nem megy az olyan gyorsan! Első lépésként az emberei erőforrások miniszterének, Balog Zoltánnak kell benyújtanunk az igazolásokat és a kérvényünket. Ezeket az általa összehívott bizottság fogja megvizsgálni. A teológusból, egyházjogászból, vallástörténészből álló grémium eldönti, egyáltalán a Parlament elé kerülhet-e az ügyünk. Ez önmagában is abszurd, ha belegondolunk, korábban az Akadémia sem vállalta, hogy ítélkezzen arról: ki lehet egyház és ki nem. Ha az említett minisztériumi bizottság jóváhagyja a kérvényünket, aktáink átkerülnek a Parlament emberjogi bizottságához. Ennek elnöke a KDNP-s Lukács Tamás. Ők újra megvizsgálják a kérelmünket, sőt azt is mérlegelik, nem jelentünk-e nemzetbiztonsági veszélyt. Ha úgy látják, fennáll ennek a gyanúja, akkor az ügyünk átkerül a Nemzetbiztonsági Hivatalhoz, és ők folytatják az ellenőrzésünket. És ha megállapítják, hogy valamiért nemzetbiztonsági kockázatot jelenthetünk, indoklás nélkül elutasíthatják a kérelmünket.

– Most viccel?

– Dehogy! Az egyházak vizsgálatának új eljárását valamelyik kereszténydemokrata képviselő javasolta. Mindenesetre lehetőséget ad arra, hogy bárkit indoklás nélkül elutasítsanak. Ám, ha netán mégis túljutunk ezen a bizottsági rostán is, következik a kétharmados parlamenti szavazás.

– Mennyi esélyt ad annak, hogy eljutnak a kétharmados igenes szavazásig?

– A hatalom azt hitte, tízezer aláírást úgysem tudunk összegyűjteni ilyen rövid idő alatt. Mégis sikerült. Nekem hivatalból is bizakodnom kell. Amióta megvonták az állami támogatásainkat egyik hónapról a másikra élünk. 2011-ben még igényelhettük az szja-t, de a számunkra felajánlott adóforintokat a mai napig nem utalták át nekünk. Az Isteni kegyelemnek, és az emberek önzetlen szeretetének köszönhetjük, hogy még létezünk. Nem engedhetjük meg magunknak, hogy elcsüggedjünk.

Forrás: SÁNDOR ZSUZSANNA / 168 Óra

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EU PARLIAMENT: Invitation to the Conference of European Interreligious Forum for Religious Freedom

29 09 2013

Freedom of belief, religion and opinion, as well as religious freedoms in general, are fundamental rights, guaranteed by numerous international treaties and conventions, including several European ones. Nevertheless, many recent reports describe a large number of infringements of these rights, even in European countries. Indeed, minorities of belief are increasingly subjected to discrimination in some European countries, or even to persecution, by means of various deleterious instruments, which give an appearance of legality but which, in reality, are at odds with European and international standards of Human Rights.

titre_5850530logoBecause the believers in every religion, and the holders of any particular belief or opinion, are in the minority somewhere, the rights of the adherents of any faith or view are liable to infringement, as perpetrated by governments or as promoted by groups working as front-organizations for particular vested interests or for governments.

In this Conference, we will examine in detail the trend in Europe to increase restrictions on freedom of opinion, religion and belief, as well as the clandestine efforts of some governments to export discriminatory systems to other countries via European institutions, and the concrete effects of these things. We will examine the existing tools for protecting freedom of belief, religion and opinion (including international law, international jurisprudence and EU-jurisprudence). The speakers (in 2 different panels) will be representatives from various religious denominations, international experts in the relevant fields and specialist defenders of human rights.

Each panel-presentation will be followed by live debates.

This conference will be held on the 16th of October 2013 (13:00 to 18:00) at the EU parliament. The exact location will be communicated to you after reservation. To reserve your place, please contact: Laure Ferrari 0032 228 47469, laure.ferrari@europarl.europa.eu

For more information click on the image below.

5887769-8770677 NEW





Russia orders destruction of Quran as ‘extremist material’

29 09 2013
Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, right, and Russia's top Muslim Cleric Ravil Gainutdin meet in a central mosque in Moscow, Thursday, Sept. 9, 2010. Photo by Associated Press.

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, right, and Russia’s top Muslim Cleric Ravil Gainutdin meet in a central mosque in Moscow, Thursday, Sept. 9, 2010. Photo by Associated Press.

 

MOSCOW (Associated Press) — Russia’s top Islamic cleric has protested a provincial court order to declare a translation of the Quran as extremist and to destroy it.

Ravil Gainutdin, the head of the Council of Muftis of Russia, said in an open letter to President Vladimir Putin released Monday that the ruling was “illiterate” and “provocative.”

The Quran is available in Russian translation, but the court last week ruled that the translation by Elmir Kuliyev published in Saudi Arabia in 2002 violated federal law banning extremist materials.

Gainutdin said that the “Russian Muslims were appalled by the neglect of law shown by the court” in the Black Sea port of Novorossiisk and demanded that the verdict be revoked. He said the court’s order to destroy the Muslim holy book was particularly outrageous.

 





Támogató nyilatkozat kérése Iványi Gábor nevében

27 09 2013

HUNGARIAN EDITION – Request for a statement of support on behalf of pastor Ivanyi Gabor of Hungarian Evangelical Fellowship, an independent Methodist congregation

Central-European Religious Freedom Institute invites all people of good will to help and support pastor Gabor Ivanyi in his struggle for religious  recognition of his congregation.

Pastor Gabor Ivanyi, Hungarian Evangelical Fellowship

Pastor Gabor Ivanyi, Hungarian Evangelical Fellowship

Kedves Felebarátunk!

Amikor a magyar kormány a parlament kétharmadával karöltve megváltoztatta az egyházi törvényt, akkor ezzel visszamenőleges hatállyal több felekezet (köztük a miénk, a Magyarországi Evangéliumi Testvérközösség nevű egyház) addigi státuszát is megvonta. Az alkotmánysértő eljárást és a törvény tartalmát is több ízben hazai és nemzetközi jogi fórumokon megtámadtuk, és eddig két ízben sikerült elérnünk, hogy az alkotmánybíróság megsemmisítse részben vagy egészben a szóbanforgó törvényt, s kimondja, hogy 2012. január elsejével a jogfosztott egyházak jogállását rehabilitálni kell. A kormány és parlamenti többsége erre azzal reagált, hogy az alkotmánysértő rendelkezéseket az alaptörvénybe emelte, és alig teljesíthető feltételeket szabott számunkra.

Ön két évvel ezelőtt, amikor egyházügyi szolidaritási nyilatkozatot bocsátottunk ki, ezt tiszteletreméltó bátorsággal aláírta, és ezért máig hálásak vagyunk. Lehetséges, hogy a felhívásunkra – amely honlapunkon, a http://www.metegyhaz.hu/tagmegujito/tagmegujito.html oldalon található – már reagált, akkor ezt is köszönjük, s ebben az esetben tekintse mostani levelünket tárgytalannak. Ha azonban nem látta felhívásunkat, és most megismerve azt, és annak tartalmával egyetért, mint a vallásszabadság és egyéb alapvető emberi jogok híve, kész-e újra támogatni bennünket az alábbiakban (is) elérhető nyilatkozat kitöltésével?

Az idő már rendkívül rövid, szeptember 30-án éjfélig kellene esetleges válaszának beérkeznie (faxon: 06 1 577-0515; e-mailen: metegyhaz@wjlf.hu, illetve a jelen cím, vagy személyesen a Budapest, VIII. Dankó u. 11. szám alá, ahol nyilatkozatát a portai szolgálat a nap 24 órájában bármikor át tudja venni).

TAGSÁGOT MEGERŐSÍTŐ NYILATKOZAT

<http://www.metegyhaz.hu/tagmegujito/tagmeg.doc>

TAGSÁGOT MEGERŐSÍTŐ NYILATKOZAT

<http://www.metegyhaz.hu/tagmegujito/tagmeg1418.doc>

<http://www.metegyhaz.hu/tagmegujito/tagmeg.doc>

(14-18 év közötti egyháztag részéről)

TAGSÁGOT MEGERŐSÍTŐ NYILATKOZAT

<http://www.metegyhaz.hu/tagmegujito/tagmeg14a.doc>

<http://www.metegyhaz.hu/tagmegujito/tagmeg14a.doc>

(14 év alatti egyháztag részéről)

Magyarországi Evangéliumi Testvérközösség

<http://www.metegyhaz.hu/tagmegujito/met_alapszab.pdf>

Alapszabálya <http://www.metegyhaz.hu/tagmegujito/met_alapszab.pdf>

MET egyházi státuszának megerősitése <http://youtu.be/-RIn7Ezz1lY>

Hálás köszönettel:

Iványi Gábor, egyházelnök
Magyarországi Evangéliumi Testvérközösség 





OSCE MEETING 2013: Report on Hungarian Law on Churches and its implications on freedom of religion

24 09 2013
Plenary Session of the annual meeting of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, September 24, 2013, Warsaw, Poland.

Plenary session of the annual meeting of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, September 24, 2013, Warsaw, Poland.

ORGANIZATION FOR  SECURITY AND CO-OPERATION IN EUROPE
OFFICE FOR DEMOCRATIC INSTITUTIONS AND HUMAN RIGHTS

HUMAN DIMENSION IMPLEMENTATION MEETING 2013
FREEDOM OF RELIGION OR BELIEF

 September 2013, Warsaw, Poland

REPORT ON HUNGARIAN LAW ON CHURCHES AND
ITS IMPLICATIONS ON FREEDOM OF RELIGION

 By Jura Nanuk, Forum Religious Freedom Europe (FOREF-Europe)
Coordinator for Central & Eastern Europe
Foref-LOGO-E2

Current Hungarian legislation seriously violates numerous standards and recommendations of European and UN human right bodies regarding freedom of religion.

Jura Nanuk, President of Central-European Religious Freedom Institute and FOREF Europe Coordinator for Central & Eastern Europe, submitting report on religious freedom in Hungary at OSCE plenary session.

Jura Nanuk, President of Central-European Religious Freedom Institute and FOREF Europe Coordinator for Central & Eastern Europe, submitting report on religious freedom in Hungary at the OSCE plenary session, September 24, Warsaw, Poland..

In summer 2011, Hungarian Parliament adopted the Law on Freedom of Conscience and Religion and the Legal Status of Churches, Denominations and Religious Communities (in further text: Law) which stripped hundreds of religious communities from their status of recognized churches. Only fourteen communities – 12 Christian and two Jewish – were granted the right to keep their status.

All other religious communities in Hungary were forced to undergo an absurd and highly arbitrary re-registration procedure which, amongst a whole range of barriers, included a final obstacle of being voted on by the Parliament, as to whether each group is a religious organization or not.

Such procedures could hardly be much further away from international human rights standards and academically accepted determinations of what constitutes a religion.

The fact that only fourteen religious communities were automatically granted the status of religion by the new law, but Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists and hundreds of Christian denominations have been rejected – clearly shows how arbitrary and discriminatory the law was.

 Although the original arbitrary list of 14 churches was latter extended due to increasing international pressure, it is clear that the Law and the consequent Amendments on the Constitution still don’t guarantee the freedom of religion.

Providing that the religions can even overcome the administrative barriers and meet the arbitrary standards that were imposed on them through standards made up by government committees and imposed by civil servants, they will only be finally accepted if they can get a 2/3 majority vote by Members of the Parliament. As a journalist of Hungarian daily newspaper Népszava noted in an article about the Law, “Gods are sitting in the Parliament and will be able to decide what is a religion and what is not”.

Nine Hungarian churches which lost their church status – three reformed Jewish communities and six Christian denominations – filed a claim to European Human Rights Court in Strasbourg after exhausting all available domestic legal remedies (ECHR Application no. 70945/11, Hungarian Mennonite Christian Church and Jeremias Izsak-Bacs against Hungary and 8 other applicants). At the present, the case is still ongoing, prolonged by several changes of the Law as well as latest Amendments on the Constitution which demanded further clarification from the Hungarian Government and responses from the claimant churches.

It is interesting to note that the Law was twice rejected by Hungarian Constitutional Court, but both times Hungarian Government managed to uphold it with questionable legal maneuvers. First time, in December 2011, after Hungarian Constitutional Court rejected the Law based on a procedural mistake, the Government withdrew it, and submitted the same Law just a few days latter with minor changes, none of which contributed to religious freedom.

Next time, in February 2013, the Constitutional Court again rejected the Law, on the basis that the Law failed to stipulate that detailed reasons must be provided when a request for the church status is refused, no deadlines are specified for the Parliament’s actions, and no legal remedy is offered. The Court also stated that granting church status by parliamentary vote can result in political decisions. Hungarian Parliament then decided to incorporate parts of the Law in the Constitution itself. This unheard of manoeuvre rendered Constitutional Court unable to examine the Law, as the Law was technically incorporated in to the Constitution itself, so it cannot be said that it is unconstitutional.

This move didn’t pass unnoticed and Hungary was again receiving harsh criticism for violating fundamental rights. In June 2013, the Venice Commission of Council of Europe in its report regarding the parts of the Fourth Amendment concerning religious communities, stated among other things the following:

“The Venice Commission is worried about the absence in the Act of procedural guarantees for a neutral and impartial application of the provisions pertaining to the recognition of churches.”

 “According to the latest information at the disposal of the rapporteurs, Parliament adopted a Bill of Recognition on 29 February 2012, with 32 recognized churches. It is entirely unclear to the rapporteurs and to the outside world, how and on which criteria and materials the Parliamentary Committee and Members of Parliament were able to discuss this list of 32 churches, to settle the delicate questions involved in the definition of religious activities and churches supplied in the Act, within a few days, without falling under the influence of popular prejudice.”

One in a series of arbitrary criteria that religious communities must satisfy before they are voted upon by Parliament, is the request that they don’t represent any threat to national security. Churches which would be rejected because they would allegedly represent threat to national security, would not be informed why they are considered as a threat or what should they change or improve, and they would have no legal remedy available.

Such “national security” criteria is in direct contradiction with 2004 OSCE Guidelines for Review of Legislation Pertaining to Religion or Belief, prepared by OSCE/Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights, adopted by Venice Commission. In the Guidelines it is clearly stated that “’national security’ is not permissible limitation under European Convention on Human Rights article 9.2 or International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights article 18.3”.

Just ten days ago, the 5th Amendment on the Constitution was accepted by the Hungarian Parliament which was supposed to handle the criticism of the Law and the 4th Amendment. Hungary’s State Secretary of Justice, Robert Repassy, announced that the government would adjust the recent, highly controversial amendments to the country’s Constitution adopted by the Parliament in March 2013. Repassy admitted that the modifications contained in the 5th Amendment of the Constitution were initiated as a result of pressure from the European Union and various human rights organizations, which had criticized the March 2013 revisions as violating certain fundamental rights.

It is obvious is that the Government didn’t introduce any measures that would improve the situation of the religious freedom in Hungary. The 5th Amendment was nothing but a failed attempt to make it seem as if Hungary had listened to its critics while actually not changing anything.

In the recent report about the 5th Amendment on the Law, Human Rights Watch stated the following:

“The Hungarian government’s largely cosmetic amendments show it’s not serious about fixing the human rights and rule of law problems in the constitution It’s come to the point where the European Council and the European Commission need to make clear there will be consequences for Hungary, and to move from talk to action.

“While allowing any religious group to refer to itself as a “church,” the amendments do not address the discrimination against churches the government has not recognized. A parliamentary committee, instead of an independent body, confers recognition, which is necessary for a church to apply for government subsidies.”


RECOMMENDATIONS

We demand that the degree of freedom of religion in Hungary is restored to its pre 2011 level and that the legislation concerning freedom of religion in Hungary is adjusted with European and UN guidelines and recommendations.

We believe that the legislation violating fundamental human rights should not be ignored as it can serve as dangerous precedent and a bad example that other countries in the region might follow.

*****

To see this report in OSCE database, click here.

76436_OSCE_Logo





EASTERN EUROPE: Freedom of religion or belief still under serious threat

23 09 2013

Human_rights_without_frontiers

The international spotlight may have been firmly focused on Syria of late but anxiety about the situation in some of its neighboring states is also rapidly rising.

By Martin Banks for Human Rights Without Frontiers

HRWF (23.09.2013) – Concern centres on fears that governments in some Central and Eastern European countries are increasingly restricting their citizens’ ability to practice their religion.

It is an issue particularly important – and topical – given the time pressures being brought to bear in signing association agreements with six Eastern Neighbourhood countries at the Vilnius summit in Lithuania in November.

The threat to religious freedoms was the subject of a recent high-profile debate in the European Parliament in Brussels.

Hosted by Slovenian MEP Jelko Kacin alongside the EU Ukraine Business Council and Human Rights Without Frontiers, the seminar aimed to review the “increasingly worrying” situation regarding the status of religious freedom and beliefs in the Eastern Neighbourhood countries (ENP).

The seminar highlighted “worrying” instances where governments of countries such as Hungary, Romania, Ukraine and Moldova are restricting their citizens’ ability to practice their religion.

Opening the seminar was Willy Fautre, Director of Human Rights Without Frontiers, a leading Brussels-based NGO, who said there was particular concern about Ukraine where he said social hostility against newer religious movements is a “huge problem” and where an increasing number of incidents of vandalism have been reported in regards to religious minorities.

Fautre said that, “Governments in a number of ENP countries impose legislation which denies the registration and carrying out religious activities. Education should be the primary solution.”

In Ukraine, he said that Jehovah’s Witnesses had reported “continued harassment, physical attacks, and disruption of religious services.”

As a result of the “inaction” of law enforcement officials, vandalism and arson of Kingdom Halls increased between 2010 and 2013. In 2010 there were five reported incidents of vandalism and arson and 15 in 2011.

In 2012 and the first five months of 2013, the Witnesses experienced 73 acts of vandalism against their houses of worship. In the same period, there were 20 physical assaults against them. Law enforcement authorities, he said, classify these attacks as hooliganism or property crime-“not recognizing they are actually hate crimes.”

In a number of cases, authorities have identified the ones responsible but have not brought them to justice.

But the situation is not confined to Ukraine.

In Moldova, Fautre says that even the burial of deceased members of religious minorities in rural areas is occasionally met with the resistance of certain Orthodox groups who want the local cemetery (owned by the municipality) to remain free of graves of other denominations, such as Baptists, Methodists or Pentecostals.

“As a result of such aggressive opposition, in some cases, funerals had to be postponed and the bereaved faced difficulties in burying their loved ones in a dignified way, which is obviously an appalling situation,” he says.

Elsewhere, a young Catholic layman in Belarus who turned his home in a western Belarus village into a shelter for homeless people, with its own prayer room, is now being accused of leading an unregistered religious organisation, the seminar was told.

One area of concern in Georgia, he said, was that minority religious groups are viewed by some as a threat to the national church and the country’s cultural values.

Some religious groups reported that Georgian Orthodox Church priests warned leaders of local minority congregations that after the October 1 parliamentary elections they would no longer be allowed to hold services in their respective villages.

Azerbaijan is the only secular Muslim country in the world – a “positive heritage” from the Soviet regime – but Fautre added, “However, several negative points, especially concerning freedom of association and worship, need to be highlighted and are under discussion with the Council of Europe Venice Commission.”

Other speakers at the event on 18 September also shared his concern about the current situation in Ukraine.

They included Svitlana Kutsenko, a member of the Embassy of God Protestant Church in Kyiv, who accused the Ukrainian government of discriminating against the right to freedom of conscience and religion in the country.

Part of the panel focused on the anti-Semitism present in Europe, which  over the years has been steadily increasing, with governments accused of failing to address the issue.

Rotyslav Ishchenko, Director of the Systematic Analysis and Forecasting Centre, expressed concern about the Svoboda Party in Ukraine which is gaining popularity “despite being a party with neo-Nazi ideologies.”

Ishchenko claimed that the current government in Ukraine is “hailing Fascists as heroes.”

“The EU needs to put pressure on the Ukrainian government to criminalise any fascist, nationalist or anti-Semitism activities.”

David Attar, who is the Mayor of Gilboa municipality in Israel, said that in regards to joining the European Union, “all EU member states should emphasise common standards and benchmarks for each of the six ENP countries, especially as Europe is seeing an increase in attacks on Jewish communities.”

He added, “The situation is very grave in countries such as Hungary and Romania and there are also concerns regarding the rise of radical anti-Semitic campaigning in Ukraine, where UPA (Ukrainian Insurgent Army has been celebrated despite their ties to fascism.

“There is a need for states attempting to sign association agreements with the EU to reconsider their stance on human rights and religious freedom.”

The underlying message of the event in Brussels was the need to manage the level of anti-Semitism via channels of education, media and training programmes. The speakers appealed to Members of the European Parliament to help tackle these issue, a plea strongly supported by former Knesset member Leon Litinetsky.

In summary, James Wilson, Director of EU Ukraine Business Council, maintained that there is a need to address these issues in a wider context by communicating to the EU institutions that there is “still much to be done” in the ENP countries ahead of Vilnius summit.

He recommends that a joint statement be sent to MEPs and the European Parliament to convey some of the ideas generated by the seminar, notably that it was now time for the European Commission to consider appointing a Commissioner for Human Rights, and that funding be made available for human rights training in the ENP to promote greater understanding and tolerance of different religious beliefs.

Human Rights Without Frontiers (HRWF) publishes information from a variety of sources which express a wide range of viewpoints. The positions taken in these communications are not necessarily those of HRWF.
EasternEuropeMap




EUROPEAN UNION: Guidelines on Freedom of Religion or Belief

22 09 2013

EU flags outside the European Parliament building

By Dr Mark Barwick, Human Rights Without Frontiers

HRWF – Freedom of Religion or Belief (FORB) is a universal human right which is protected under Article 18 of the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). By adopting guidelines for FORB in June of this year, the EU has committed itself to mainstream these principles in its external policies and sets a standard for its foreign relations.

The Guidelines will be an important reference for EU officials as they promote FORB in third countries, seek to prevent FORB violations and respond to situations where such violations have occurred.  The Guidelines also set out actions and measures which the EU can take toward countries that violate FORB.

The efficacy of this instrument highly depends on the EU’s readiness to implement the principles and actions contained therein. At the heart of these efforts, particularly in the beginning, will be training. It is fair to say that most EU officials, whether in Brussels or serving as EU representatives in third countries, have little or no knowledge of FORB. COHOM and its Task Force on Freedom of religion or belief must be proactive in disseminating the Guidelines as widely as possible. It must also ensure that all EU personnel are properly oriented in terms of their promotion, implementation and mainstreaming potential.

Monitoring and reporting will likewise be vital to the success of the FORB Guidelines. For monitoring to be effective there must be a culture of transparency and the sharing of information. It is clear that discretion is necessary in certain situations where people’s safety is at stake; on the other hand, a steady stream of updates, good practices and lessons learnt would keep all actors on board and foster an environment of collegiality and cooperation.

Human Rights Without FrontierS welcomed the inclusion of civil society in consultation and development of the FORB Guidelines. EU authorities who are charged with FORB implementation would do well to continue this policy and engage civil society on a regular basis in FORB promotion, training and consultation. Specifically, the Guidelines call for an evaluation after three years which includes multi-level consultation with civil society. However, the creation of mechanisms that ensure early and regular consultation with civil society would also be a prudent action to take. Civil society consultation could help ensure accountability and timely follow-up at every phase of the initial three-year period. Certain procedural elements of the FORB Guidelines will require more clarity over the coming months. EU missions will need more guidance on FORB implementation in specific situations and on what actions to take. This implies training on identifying volatile situations where violations are likely to occur. For instance, some violations are more easily detected than others, such as the enactment of discriminatory laws, the confiscation of property used for religious purposes or evident acts of violence against a religious or belief minority. Other violations are more difficult to gauge, such as social hostility and general intolerance. Informational materials and training opportunities designed to address such matters would go a long way toward awareness and mainstreaming of FORB understanding within the EU and its representatives.

Finally, the Guidelines also call for a regular exchange of views with relevant bodies within the European Parliament as well as political dialogues with partner countries and regional organisations. Such actions, when carried out with serious intent, will have a positive influence on the recognition of FORB standards on a wider scale internationally. They will also help prevent and respond to FORB violations “in a timely, consistent and coherent manner” (par B.6). Such a commitment on the part of the European Union can contribute to fostering greater respect for human rights not only in third countries but within Europe as well.








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