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Deterioration of Religious Freedom in Eastern Europe

Side event at 37th session of the Human Rights Council at the United Nations (Geneva)

The situation of the Religious Freedom is a reason of concern for several NGOs.

The 15th March 2018, on the occasion of  the 37th session of the Human Rights Council at the United Nations (Geneva), the  french NGO with United Nations Consultative Status, the Coordination of the Associations and the People for Freedom of Conscience (CAP LC) organised an event on the topic of the Deterioration of Religious Freedom in Eastern Europe. It was focused  on those following countries where this deterioration is unfortunately the most relevant : Romania, Czech Republic, Hungary and Russian Federation.

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FREEDOM OF CONSCIENCE, THOUGHT AND RELIGION IN OUR SOCIETY

UN WORLD INTERFAITH HARMONY WEEK - FESTIVAL

The World Interfaith Harmony Week was proclaimed by the UN General Assembly on 20 October 2010. In the resolution, the General Assembly, points out that mutual understanding and interreligious dialogue constitute important dimensions of a culture of peace and established World Interfaith Harmony Week as a way to promote harmony between all people regardless of their faith, all done on a total voluntary basis.

Showing togetherness, several organizations as:
Center for Dansk-Muslimske Relationer- www.cedar.nu ; EMISCO-  www.emisco.eu ; ENAR-  www.enar-eu.org ; Soteria International -  www.soteriainternational.org ; Youth for Human Rights - www.ungeformenneskeret tigheder.dk ; United for Human Rights – www.humanrights.com ; Vejen til lykke – www.vejentillykke.dk The Danish Baha'I Community - http://www.bahai.dk/ ; Scientology Volunteer Ministers - https://www.freedommag.org join the WORLD INTERFAITH HARMONY WEEK, creating an event together and in this way celebrating the inclusiveness of all faiths in our lives.

The event is open to all people, all faiths and religions and will take place:

Date & Time: SATURDAY, 3 FEBRUARY 2018 from 13.00 – 16.00.
Address: Tent city at Nytorv, Copenhagen K.

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International Convention "Law and Freedom of Belief in Europe, an Arduous Journey"

On the 18 - 19 January one of the biggest events in the field of law and human rights took place, which gathered together 32 speakers from around the world, among which also a representative of Soteria International.

"In the prestigious setting of Sant'Apollonia Auditorium at the homonymous XIV century convent complex located in Via San Gallo, in the historic center of Florence, the international convention of the European Federation for the Freedom of the Belief (FOB) took place, under the auspices of the Secretary General of the Council of Europe (Dr. Thorbjørn Jagland), of the patronage of the Tuscany Regional Council, of the Parliamentary Assembly of the OSCE (Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe) and of the University of Florence.

The Medal of the President of the Italian Republic was conferred to the convention. Prof. Silvio Calzolari (Secretary of FOB), presenting it together with attorney Alessandro Amicarelli (President of FOB), publicly thanked the President of the Republic “for having expressed his appreciation for FOB’s initiative, as an event of particular cultural and social value, through the attribution of a representation prize, a medal, which honors us".

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Press Release

Laïcité and Religious Freedom: A Coalition of NGOs Question France at the United Nations

On Monday, January 15, Soteria International attended a side-event following the Universal Periodic Review of France at the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland. In accordance with the views expressed at this meeting, research conducted by Soteria International has also concluded that French funding of anti-cult organizations, such as FECRIS and its member organizations, leads to stigmatization of spiritual practitions and the violation of the right to Freedom of Religion. This government funded "hate speech" has allowed this discourse to greatly affect the views of society at large, not only in France, but also accross Europe.

The press release for this event has been reproduced below:

CAP/ LC HRWF (15.01.2017) – In a side-event following the Universal Periodic Review of France in Geneva this Monday 15th January, several NGOs and an international law expert have called upon President Emmanuel Macron and his Prime Minister to revise the financing of FECRIS (European Federation of Centers of Research and Information on Cults and Sects) and its member organizations. Under the predecessors of President Macron, FECRIS has benefitted from abusive grants that they have used to disseminate hate speech targeting some minority religious groups in the countries of the European Union and beyond.

The representative of the French NGO CAP/LC (Coordination des Associations et des Individus pour la Liberté de Conscience), Mr. Thierry Vallé, highlighted the French policy stigmatizing religious minorities and the human consequences which are often dramatic for the members of these minorities. By financing FECRIS, France contributes to the expansion of this phenomenon in Europe.

On the occasion of the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, France must reconsider its policy regarding religious minorities, he added.

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International Convention "Law and Freedom of Belief in Europe - An arduous journey"

Event organized by European Federation for Freedom of Belief, Florence, 18-19 January 2018

European Federation for Freedom of Belief - FOB, a Federation of Associations that advocate freedom of thought, religion and belief, will organize, under the auspices of the Secretary General of the Council of Europe, Mr Thorbjørn Jagland, and under the patronage of OSCE - PA, on 18 - 19 January 2018 at Auditorium Sant'Apollonia, Firenze - Via San Gallo, 25/a the International Convention "Law and Freedom of Belief in Europe - An arduous journey".

Presentation of the event:

"Within globalization, within pluralism, in a multi-ethnic society, with the many exoduses and with the diversities bursting into our society, protection of civil rights and especially the right to believe and the right for freedom, have become a crucial need for the European Community and the national governments that comprise it. In an uncertain and volatile reality, that protection is our duty and the duty of each country, and the only way to make it valid and effective all over Europe and in each and every country of the Union, is to have European laws as well as European justice enforcement bodies.

With the differences of laws and rulings of each national government, with the pressures of anti-liberal forces and sometimes of nonsense politics, it is not an easy task, the one we are entitled to. Within the protection (with no shyness) of freedom to believe and freedom of religion, dwells a hope for peace, for pacific cohabitation and reciprocal acknowledgment which alone turns the different, the ‘other’, the unknown, into a comrade, a friend and a fellow citizen.

In such often puzzling protection stands the creation, as well, of the most truthful identity for Europe and its role amongst the nations and continents."

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Synthesis of 10th Annual Spiritual Human Rights Conference - part 1

A Breakthrough for Human Rights

On December 10, Soteria International, Youth for Human Rights Denmark, and ENAR Denmark, hosted the 10th Annual Spiritual Human Rights Conference in Copenhagen, Denmark. Human rights activists and spiritual practitioners gathered to discuss the success of the past decade and directions for the future in order to improve on the current situation. The conference was chaired by Konrad Swenninger from Soteria International, who introduced this 10th Annual Spiritual Human Rights Conference by stating the importance of the spiritual aspect of human rights, as mentioned in the preamble to the UN Declaration of Human rights, that spirituality is in fact the base of human rights. Mr. Swenninger gave a short introduction to the topics undertaken in the previous conferences, leading to the topic of this year’s SHR conference, and emphasized the importance of the partnerships and collaborative efforts of the individuals and organizations present.

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Human Rights NGOs Condemn Persecution in China and Propaganda in Korea, Hong Kong, and Taiwan against the Church of Almighty God

Several Human Rights NGO's took a stand and began to raise their concern on the persecution of the Church of Almighty God in China, as well as, the propaganda against the group in Korea, Hong Kong, and Taiwan.

Soteria International, together with:

CAP Freedom of Conscience – Coordination of Associations and Individuals for Freedom of Conscience

CESNUR – Center for Studies on New Religions

CHNK – Citizens’ Coalition for Human Rights of Abductees and North Korean Refugees

EIFRF – European Interreligious Forum for Religious Freedom

FOB – European Federation for Freedom of Belief

FOREF – Forum for Religious Freedom Europe

HRWF – Human Rights Without Frontiers

ORLIR – International Observatory of Religious Liberty of Refugees

address their concern to the officials in charge of the situation, as follows:

"NGOs Condemn Persecution in China and Propaganda in Korea, Hong Kong, and Taiwan against the Church of Almighty God

Thousands of members of the Church of Almighty God (CAG) have been incarcerated in China, following a further crackdown on unauthorized religious organizations. According to the rough statistics, more than 300,000 members of CAG were incarcerated and detained in China from the beginning of the persecutions in the 1990s to 2017. Many have been tortured and at least 30 died in custody in suspicious circumstances, according to a report just released by CAG and published by several human rights organizations internationally (see e.g, http://www.cesnur.org/2017/almighty_china_report.pdf). In the last few days, we have seen unprecedented media attacks against CAG published simultaneously in Korea, Hong Kong, and Taiwan, which seem to be an answer to the publication of this report.

The Church of Almighty God (CAG) is a new religious movement founded in China in 1991. It teaches that Jesus has returned to the Earth and incarnated as the Almighty God in a living person and is with us today. It also claims that prophecies in the Bible predict the fall of the Chinese Communist regime in China, although it does not advocate any form of armed rebellion. For this reason, CAG, credited by Chinese official sources with a membership of at least three million, has been persecuted massively since at least 1995.

The Chinese regime later started accusing CAG of various crimes, including causing riots based on a prediction that the world would end in 2012 and murdering a woman in a McDonald’s diner in Zhaoyuan in 2014. The recent media campaign repeats these accusations, although scholarly studies have debunked them as egregious examples of fake news spread to discredit CAG. In fact, the group responsible for the 2014 murder used the name “Almighty God,” but was not part of CAG and had different religious beliefs. Even studies hostile to CAG have concluded that, although some CAG believers expected the end of the world for 2012, this was not sanctioned by the leaders, was not part of CAG’s teachings, and did not lead to any riots.

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