Since the beginning of the existence of humanity, people have gathered together and worked for a better life and improved living conditions. Their togetherness was named or interpreted in various ways; as tribes, villages, countries and even as the unification of different countries. Guided by love and understanding of each other, or guided by material interests, people worked together, for their own good, for the good of others or for the good of society.
Kindness, helpfullness, compassion, giving without receiving or expecting to receive anything back have been considered as honourable qualities of a human being. It’s at the core of most religions such as Christianity, Islam, Buddhism and Hinduism, profoundly exemplified by the main propagators of these teachings in practice in real life and are considered as examples to follow by our modern civilization in spite of an increased emphasis upon selfish behaviour and catering for our own modern day material needs.
During 2013/2014 Soteria International has grown in number of members, collaborators and staff. As many of us are based in different countries, we decided to have a week together in the beautiful Danish countryside, in connection with the general assembly.
During the week Soteria International collaborators and staff took time to look into new areas of work and collaborations, at national and international levels. The plan of action for 2014/2015 was discussed and elaborated. The week also offered individual presentations and studies, deepening the understanding of spiritual human rights and the platform of our work.
The general assembly was kept available on Skype, in order to facilitate for more members to join. The Skype facilitating generated the biggest number of members so far to join a general assembly. Many members also stayed online after, for Skype discussions on relevant topics, prepared by the board. The discussions were equally inspiring for the board as for new members and collaborators!
We heartfuly welcome our new members, collaborators and staff members! The work year of 2014/2015 offer us new challenges and opportunities to go further in the fight for spiritual human rights for all!
First meeting in Europe, 28 June 2014
On 28th of June, 2014, in an atmosphere of openness, mutual respect, tolerance and friendship, an informal group of NGOs, religious communities and denominations met in Brussels, led by a common aspiration to create a free space for dialogue and work together on specific religious freedom issues and problems.
Even if having different opinion on many religious aspects, all the NGOs attending the meeting were unanimous on the belief that religious convictions are to be freely expressed and on the necessity to work together for this.
Soteria is part of this initiative unique in Europe and opening concrete collaboration regarding the freedom of thought, conscience and beliefs.
Soteria is confident that the new born platform has the potential of a think tank for sharing best practices as well as developing new practices related to the way the spirituality should be perceived and accepted, as a constructive element for our future Europe.
Soteria Interational participated at the The European Anti-Racist Convention - Setting the Movement in Motion! kept by European Network Against Racism (ENAR) in Brussels 20-21st June. The convention was also the General Assembly of ENAR.
Participants from all over Europe came to the convention to discuss common strategies for the coming years. Soteria International emphasisied the importance of recognising diversity as complementary, not antagonistic. It is time to leave the simplified view on equality based in ”sameness” behind, and instead work towards a natural co-existence in a diverse reality.
ENAR is one of the biggest NGO networks in Europe and the General Secretary of five European Parliament groups were present to initiate dialogue for the coming mandate period; Mr Martin Kamp (EPP), Mr Jacob Moroza-Rasmussen (ALDE),Mrs Paraskevi Tsetsi, (Green) Mrs Anna Colombo (S&D) and Mrs Maria Dalimonte (GUE). Soteria International’s focus on EU responsibility and sanctions when human rights are not respected within EU member states, as well as the misuse of of EU policies, were among the issues heard and discussed. The General Secretary of all five groups affirmed their commitment to put the sanctions into action, as well as keeping a continued dialogue with Soteria International regarding specific cases where such measures are called for.
The IRF Roundtable (IRF = International Religious Freedom) 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 advocacy actions to address specific IRF issues and problems.
Meetings will be open to all civil society members and every NGO that share concerns about religious freedom issues and are committed to Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The non-attribution basis means that if a report of the discussions during the meetings is done, no specific quote or position will be attributed to anyone, making the roundtable a safe space for expressing views and sharing ideas.
Civil society has engaged itself broadly against the report of Rudy Salles regarding a strategy for the Council of Europe to battle "sects". It is amazing that the French model is still being considered as an option after decades of massive critique from a human rights perspective.
Soteria International is among the 31 organisations and 33 civic societies and religious leaders who have signed this joint statement to the president of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council, Anne Brasseur.
The letter is available for download and also published below.
On 7th April the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe will vote on a report regarding “the protection of minors against excesses of sects”. The rapporteur Rudy Salles (France) recommends for Europe to adopt the french anti-sect line, in order to protect children from abuses. In the report he juxtaposes the French and the Swedish ways to relate to minority religions and surprisingly finds that the much criticised french anti-sect line with MIVILUDES and FECRIS would be better suited for the future of Europe.
We consider that an adoption of the report would only contribute to stigmatise new religious movements, and fail to essentially protect the childrens’ fundamental rights.
For more information please see article by sect expert DiMarzio on her blog "Spirituality, religion and sectarianism"
Background and information from Coordination of Associations and Individuals for the Freedom of Conscience (CAP)