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10th Anniversary of the EU Guidelines on Freedom of Religion or Belief

On 29 June 2023, MEPs Peter van Dalen and Carlo Fidanza, co-chairs of the Intergroup on Freedom of Religion or Belief, hosted a conference at the European Parliament to celebrate the 10 years of the EU Guidelines on Freedom of Religion or Belief.

The meeting, which gathered prominent speakers, such as the UN Special Rapporteur Nazila Ghanea, Willy Fautré, Director of Human Rights Without Frontiers, the Special Envoys for Religious Freedom from the Netherlands and Italy, and representatives from the EU Brussels FoRB (Freedom of Religion or Belief) Roundtable and the Netherlands FoRB Roundtable, offered an evaluation of the impact and progress made in the 10 years after the adoption of the EU Guidelines. This initial part was followed by a discussion on the future and potential improvement of the document.

MEP Peter van Dalen mentioned as a direct improvement the appointment of the EU Special Envoy for FoRB, Frans van Daele, and the references to religious freedom in key reports of the European Parliament, such as the annual human rights report. Several times throughout the conference, the speakers said that the freedom of religion rights are fundamental for our societies. They are intricately connected to freedom of speech and the freedom of conscience, which define a democratic country.

Nazila Ghanea, UN Special Rapporteur on FoRB, said that the work and understanding of the freedom of religion must be deepened and intensified in order to uphold these rights, to eliminate discrimination and to avoid misusing the freedom.

Massimo Introvigne, Italian sociologist, underlined the universal character of the EU Guidelines and the fact that there is still a lot to do to guard the FoRB not only outside EU, but also in countries that are part of the Union. EU Representatives should not fear criticizing democratic countries that do not respect FoRB. While there are serious doubts of a real implementation of the guidelines in various places around the world, the anti-Christian persecution should be met with a firmer and more explicit condemnation. Moreover, the government agencies that insist hypocritically on the dangers of religion in society should be curtailed. Freedom of religion rights are human rights and form a fundamental core of the latter. They are not to be ignored or passed over.

On the other hand, it was mentioned that an update of the guidelines would not be necessary. The most difficult aspect is their implementation, which entails more focus on the people, not on the numbers or impersonal policies. There are many people who still suffer for their belief throughout the world and need recognition and special assistance.


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