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.
After more than 10 years, the Romanian court completely acquitted the 21 people from MISA yoga school, accused of human trafficking. For ten years, the media has continued a witch hunt on MISA yoga school, who is now fully acquitted of all accusations. The decision found much of the evidence put forth by the prosecution to be unfounded or illegal. Again we face a large scale fake-trial against a spiritual movement, with grave violations of the fundamental rights of thousands of yoga practitioners.
The trial was part of the internationally questioned Romanian campaign against the MISA yoga school. The campaign started in 2004 with the largest police action in post-communist Romanian history. Under the pretext of national security, 300 armed gendarmes raided 16 private houses belonging to yogis.
On 27th January 2015, Soteria International attended an event at the European Parliament with the subject of ‘What do MEPs do with their beliefs?’ It was an event hosted by the Intergroup on Freedom of Religion and Belief and Religious Tolerance. This included a presentation of a survey amongst MEPs by Professor Foret, coordinator of religion at the European Parliament Project.
Dennis de Jong MEP, the host of the event, emphasised the importance of this study saying that it was the first time that religion was looked at in the life of an MEP. He said for many MEPs religion remains something that they keep at home and there is also a consensus to leave things as they are and to regulate spirituality at home i.e. for some they choose to see that the EU is not the place for religious affairs. He observed that possibly new member states are more conservative and less secularised that old member states. And he mentioned that we should be aware to differentiate between religious influences and cultural differences e.g. in the case of Turkey. He also underlined that the survey is not entirely reliable when only 20% of the MEPs completed the survey.