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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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Barroso, Schulz and O'Reilly hear Soteria International call for real human rights in future EU

Soteria International was present at the European Ombudsman Interactive event ”Your wish list for Europe” with President of the European Commission José Manuel Barroso, President of the European Parliament Martin Schulz and European Ombudsman Emily O'Reilly moderated by editor of The European Voice Tim King.

Soteria International contributed both with a video intervention and in the hall, wishing for a Human Rights practice based in reality rather than EU policies.

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EPWG – Annual Report on Freedom of Religion and Beliefs - 2013

Soteria International attended the conference on Freedom of Religion or Belief “The state of freedom of religion or belief in the world” held in Brussels on the 12th of February 2014, where the European Parliament Working Group on Freedom of Religion or Belief (EPWG on FoRB), represented by MEPs Peter van Dalen (ECR) and Dennis de Jong (GUE/NGL), presented its first annual report on freedom of religion in the world.

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Spiritual Human Rights 2013 Conference Report

In what is already becoming an established tradition, the International Human Rights day of December 2013 did not pass unnoticed and last December Soteria International co-hosted a new conference in Copenhagen, this time on the topic of freedom of conscience, entitled “Freedom of conscience and belief at a crossroads in Europe - self-determination and spiritual teachings”.

The sixth edition of Spiritual Human Rights Conferences was the first one to be co-organized with partner institutions, namely the following: Coordination des Associations et des Particuliers pour la Liberté de Conscience (CAP), European Interreligious Forum for Religious Freedom (EIFRF), European Muslim Initiative for Social Cohesion (EMISCO), Dansk Interreligiøst Forum (DIF) and Youth for Human Rights (UFMR, Denmark).

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Eric Roux - Spiritual Human Rights 2013 Conference (part 1)

One of the main speakers in our conferences, coming from France was Eric Roux (EIFRF). He talked about the laws regarding the so-called manipulation on the European level, and particularly in France, which is not subject to much criticism worldwide. The video footage and his speech is to be found below.

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Thierry Deval - Spiritual Human Rights 2013 Conference (part 2)

During the conference, another guest from France, Thierry Deval from Coordination des Associations et des Particuliers pour la Liberté de Conscience (CAP) offered some concrete examples of misapplications of the mind manipulation law, such as the case of MIVILUDES (French inter-governmental agency) and FECRIS (under a French-based NGO umbrella).

In the conference in Copenhagen Mr. Deval discussed the fact that regarding the law of mental manipulation there was in fact just one case in ten years and so the government is attempting at creating problems where they do not exist.

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Raffaella Di Marzio - Spiritual Human Rights 2013 Conference (part 3)

During our conference, we also had as a guest speaker Raffaella di Marzio, an Italian psychologist of religion and a contributing partner to the Brussels based NGO Human Rights without Frontiers. She discussed the relation between discrimination towards new religious and spiritual movements in Italy and the institutional field. Discrimination seems to be rooted there since Italian governmental agencies and police work in close cooperation with the anti-sect movements, whose opinions and actions are heavily biased and carry vested interests against NRM. This was already specified in our syhthesis of the conference. Following is the full conference contribution of Ms. Di Marzio.

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Bashy Quraishy - Spiritual Human Rights 2013 Conference (part 4)

The Danish politician and president of European Muslim Initiative for Social Cohesion (EMISCO), Bashy Quraishy stressed during our conference the importance of the right of self-determination and vehemently stepped against any form of criminalization in this respect. He also stressed on the importance of education, including spiritual education. His speech can be found here:

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Advaitananda - Spiritual Human Rights 2013 Conference (part 5)

The spiritual activist and senior coordinator teacher of Natha Yoga Center of Denmark, Advaitananda Stoian covered the key concept of self-control which basically excludes any mind manipulation and the importance of spiritual practice for everyone in order to maintain personal freedom. His speech is offered below.

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Spiritual Human Rights 2013 Conference Synthesis

On 10th December 2013, Soteria International co-hosted a conference on the subject of “Freedom of conscience and belief at a crossroads in Europe - self-determination and spiritual teachings”. It is already an established tradition of Soteria International to observe the International Human Rights day by organizing public conferences and roundtables.

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The refugee status within EU

From an individual case to a political case

The case of the Romanian yoga teaches, Gregorian Bivolaru, has been studied and the Romanian abuses reported by numerous human rights organisations and experts such as Amnesty International, The Helsinki Committee in Romanian (APADOR-CH), Human Rights Without Frontiers, the Romanian professor of politics Gabriel Andreescu, founder of APADOR-CH, Swedish expert in the Supreme Court Karl Erik Nyllund and the Danish journalist and human rights activist Vibeke Sperling.

The complexity and uniqueness of the case comes from the fact that a European citizen is simultaneously protected by his refugee status and looks to be apprehended for imprisonment by the same authorities and for the same persecution.

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Spiritual Human Rights 2013 Conference Invitation

Soteria International in collaboration with


Spiritual Human Rights 2013 Conference
Copenhagen, 10th December 2013

Freedom of conscience and belief at a crossroads in Europe - self-determination and spiritual teachings

Governments are implementing new laws across Europe, claiming to protect citizens from “mind manipulation”. The criminalization targets particularly minority religions and spiritual movements.

Our democracy is based on self-determination - the individual’s ability and right to decide for himself. The new laws suggest that this ability is threatened today. But are spiritual teachings the threat? Is criminalization the answer?

If the individuals’ ability of self-determination is threatened, should it not be secured by strengthening the freedom of conscience, rather than by criminalizing certain thoughts or beliefs?

Welcome to the 6th Spiritual Human Rights conference with international experts, politicians, human rights activists and spiritual leaders discussing different perspectives on self-determination and spiritual teachings.

at Global Platform Denmark, Fælledvej 12, Copenhagen N
or participate online at

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A cause for concern in Europe – Freedom of opinion, religion and belief - part 2

A cause for concern in Europe – Freedom of opinion, religion and belief. Persecution of and discrimination against minority-groups.

Continued from part 1

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A cause for concern in Europe – Freedom of opinion, religion and belief - part 1

A cause for concern in Europe – Freedom of opinion, religion and belief. Persecution of and discrimination against minority-groups.

This October, 2013, in Brusells, Soteria International co-organized an event together with the European Interreligious Forum for Religious Freedom (EIFRF), United Sikh International, European Muslim Initiative for Social Cohesion (EMISCO), Federation Pro Europa Christiana, Coordination des Associations et des Citoyens pour la Liberté de Conscience (CAPLC Europe), Forum for Religious Freedom (FOREF). The stated purpose of the event was to inform the interested public about the politics of repression which is sadly still going on nowadays in what regards certain religious minorities of Europe and to raise attention to the threat of such politics in a democratic European Union. Speakers made the audience aware of the break of international human rights in such cases and also tried to provide beneficial examples that co-exist in Europe with such dubious practices.

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Live discussion with vice-president Viviane Reding on the Romanian misuse of EU mechanisms to continue persecution of refugees

On 14th October Mrs. Reding visited the Citizens’ Dialogue in Stockholm. The Swedish representative of Soteria International, Mr. Konrad Swenninger brought up the issue of a human rights contradiction between the European Arrest Warrant and the International Convention for protection of Refugees. As an example, Mr. Swenninger mentioned the case of Gregorian Bivolaru, a Romanian political dissident continuously targeted by Romanian authorities and was given political asylum in Sweden. The asylum is now threatened by a European Arrest Warrant issued in June 2013 by Romanian authorities, as a result of a highly controversial decision of the Romanian Supreme Court against Bivolaru.

Acknowledging the case, Mrs. Reding stated that indeed the European Arrest Warrant has been a complicated subject in European politics. She and her team have insisted on precise procedures related to the warrant, so that it cannot be used by national authorities to pursue undemocratic interests. Referring to the situation in Romania, Mrs. Reding is concerned that indeed the country struggles with implementation and respect for democratic procedures. Mrs. Reding reminded the audience that in the summer of 2012, the Directorate General for Justice of the EC, which she conducts, severely criticized the attack on the constitution of Romania attempted by opposing Romanian governing parties.

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Soteria International brings attention in a OSCE’s HDIM-2013 side event conference to a human rights contradiction in Bivolaru’s case

The Human Dimension Implementation Meeting (HDIM), Europe's largest annual human rights and democracy conference, is organized every year by the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) as a platform for OSCE participating States, Partners for Co-operation, civil society, international organizations and OSCE structures to take stock of the implementation of the human dimension commitments, discuss associated challenges, share good practices and make recommendations for further improvements (

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