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International Religious Freedom

Synthesis of the first meeting in Europe

International Religious FreedomFirst 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.

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Collaboration for complementary diversity in Europe - ENAR convention 2014

ENAR logo

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.

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The first International Religious Freedom Roundtable meeting in Brussels

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.

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Broad appeal against anti-sect draft

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.

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Will the Council of Europe adopt French anti-sect policy?

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)

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Attack in Islamabad March 2014

On 10th of March 2014, in Islamabad, Pakistan, armed men burnt down a yoga center inaugurated by a world famous Indian Hindu guru who once offered to teach inner peace to the Taliban. The Art of Living center was torched on Saturday night in the a suburb of the capital. A police official told AFP some eight to nine people men armed with pistols and guns were involved in the attack. They tied up three employees on duty that day and spread petrol, burning the place down. Happily, the employees survived.

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Concern for Human Rights in the EU

At the end of 2013 the European Parliament’s Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs sent a report to the European Commission referring to some weak points of the European Arrest Warrant (EAW), among which was the fact that the actual EAW is not taking into consideration as priority the respect for the human rights. Now, the executing party has the right to reject the request of extradition if there are Human Rights issues involved.

On 27th February 2014 two ground-breaking resolutions were presented.

The European Commission was prompted to set up a new system to monitor objective and permanent compliance with the EU accession criteria, commonly known as the "Copenhagen criteria". This new "Copenhagen mechanism" should serve to set indicators, draw up binding recommendations and impose penalties – such as freezing EU funding – for countries that fail to comply.

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