We will bring a series of articles regarding the witch-hunt effects in society, displacing the rule of law, when spiritual groups are confronted with allegations of sexual abuse.
We start with an article by André Tarassi published by “Centre d'Information et de Conseil des Nouvelles Spiritualités” – CICNS, in 2006.
"Spiritual Minorities and sexual abuse?
By André Tarassi
Anne A. Simpkinson, whose remarks are intended to denounce sexual deviance in spiritual groups in the United States, says in her book "Betrayal of the Soul": In the mid-1980s, the wave of articles detailing the accusations against Catholic priests about their conduct with teenagers, has unleashed a series of revelations about the behaviour of many spiritual authorities in almost all religions. Since then, new charges arise regularly. There is hardly a month without something new emerging about a priest, a rabbi, a pastor, a rishi or accused swami resigning because of sexual abuse. It would be tempting to point to one group or another and say "it's their fault, if we put them all in prison if they were eliminated, there would be no more of this abuse!”
On March 30, an important event was hosted by the European Parliament, a public hearing on fundamental rights in the European Union.
The main goal of this public hearing was to contribute to the on-going dialogue on the mechanisms and methods meant to better defend the rule of law and the fundamental rights of people in the Union, and to allow for an assessment of the Union's efforts to guard and promote its common values.
The public hearing has gathered institutional actors, researchers and organisations of the civil society to discuss the situation of fundamental rights in the EU. The first session focused on the Union's recent initiatives to protect and promote fundamental rights and the rule of law and on the Union's institutional framework in this field. Among the spokespersons were: First Vice-President of the Commission - Timmermans, Chair of Council's Working Party on Fundamental Rights, Citizens Rights and Free Movement of Persons (EU accession to ECHR) - Kristīne Līce, Advocate General of the EU Court of Justice - Kokott, the Council of Europe's Commissioner for Human Rights - Muižnieks, and Amnesty International. The second session focused on specific threats to fundamental rights in the European Union, rallying the Fundamental Rights Agency, organisations of civil society and several experts. One also presented the recent study on "The impact of the crisis on fundamental rights across the Member States of the EU," conducted at LIBE's request.
The First Vice-President of the European Commission, in charge of Better Regulation, Inter-Institutional Relations, the Rule of Law and Charter of Fundamental Rights, Frans Timmermans participated to the „Inter-religious Dialogue” event which took place in the European Parliament on 24 March 2015.
Here is his intervention in its entirety:
“That was a very powerful speech (referring to the intervention of Mr. Schulz, the President of the European Parliament), I don’t know what we might add to what you already said. Just to underscore what Martin Schulz has just said. I profoundly believe in his message. I also profoundly believe in the fact that we face arguably the biggest challenge to European society since the end of the Second World War.
It is an element of human nature and especially an element in European history that whenever we are in trouble we go and look for someone to blame and traditionally we start with the Jews. You would have thought, 70 years after the liberation of Auschwitz that we would have lost that part of our tradition, but apparently we haven’t.
On Tuesday, 24th March, in Brussels, the European Parliament hosted a conference of MEPs and religious community leaders with a very actual subject in debate, namely “The rise of religious radicalism and fundamentalism and the role of inter-religious dialogue in the promotion of tolerance and respect for human dignity”.
The conference has been opened by the Parliament’s First President, Mr Antonio Tajani and the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Mrs Federica Mogherini.
The event had 2 parts, first part was about “The rise of religious radicalism and fundamentalism” led by Mr Elmar Brok, the Chairman of the Committee on Foreign Affairs, and the second part presented the subject „Promoting tolerance and respect for human dignity” led by Mr Claude Moraes, the Chairman of the Committee on Civil liberties, Justice and Home Affairs.
Following the regrettable events that took place lately in Paris, Verviers or Copenhagen, high representatives of various religions, Christians, Jews, Islamists but also of the laity, together with important political figures, by the side of four thousand citizens, all united under the common slogan “Together in Peace – Liberté et respect” have demonstrated in Brussels, hand in hand, on the 15th of March 2015, against any act of terrorism. The demonstrators have passed on their route by a number of places of worship in Brussels, as the El-Jadid Mosque, the Orthodox Cathedral on the Stalingradlaan, the Our Lady of the Zavel Church and Brussels’ main Synagogue on the Regentschapstraat.
Soteria International is pleased to see that the European Parliament adopted the Annual Report on Human Rights and Democracy done by The European Parliament Intergroup on Freedom of Religion or Belief and Religious Tolerance.
In this report, important religious global issues are being addressed, such as the escalating persecution of religious or belief minorities by ISIS and the continued human rights violations of Rohinya Muslims in Burma.
However, we hope coming reports will include also other religious and spiritual groups whose rights have been violated, such as Yoga practitioners, Baha’is and other less publicised spiritual and religious minorities.
Also, it is a striking lack that the EU does not make any report on the blatant and increasing violations of freedom of religion and belief inside the European Union.
At the OSCE HDIM 2014 Soteria International presented several situations where volunteer work is abusively prosecuted as human trafficking and labour exploitation, when undertaken by spiritual seekers. Since the side event in Warszaw, the topic has been further highlighted in interreligious roundtable discussions in Brussels.
In January 2015 Soteria International composed a letter signed by 36 NGOs and indiviuals, religious leaders, human rights advocates and practitioners addressed to the European Commission. The letter presented briefly cases from Italy, Germany and Romania.
The First Vice-President of the European Commission, Mr Frans Timmermans, answered in the begining of March 2015 making reference of the principle of subsidiarity.