European Union, United Kingdom, and Commonwealth

Cooperation in the Promotion of Freedom of Religion or Belief

On January 25 in Brussels, a panel of experts, was invited to discuss the “European Union, United Kingdom, and Commonwealth: Cooperation in the Promotion of Freedom of Religion or Belief”. Professor Neville Roshow from the European Union Office of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints quoted Martin Niemoller​ to emphasize the importance and urgency of taking a stand for the rights of others: 

“First they came for the Communists and I did not speak out because I was not a Communist. Then they came for the Socialists and I did not speak out because I was not a Socialist. Then they came for the trade unionists and I did not speak out because I was not a trade unionist. Then they came for the Jews and I did not speak out Because I was not a Jew. Then they came for me and there was no one left to speak for me.” 

Therefore, on the importance of the subject of work and advancement within the Freedom of Religion and Belief, Rochow stated, that an infringement on the rights of any one person is an infringement on our own rights, as we all risk being tomorrow’s victim.

Jean-Claude Junker, the president of the European Union, has called the Freedom of Religion and Belief “a fundamental right, which is part of the foundation of the European Union (EU)”; and stated that “the persistent persecution of religious and ethnic minorities makes protecting and promoting this freedom inside and outside the EU all the more essential” (European Commission Press Release). In May of 2016, Junker appointed the first Special Envoy for the promotion of the Freedom of Religion or Belief outside the European Union was appointed in order to engage international cooperation through the development of aid policy in the European Union. Junker appointed Dr. Jan Figel, a former Slovakian and European politician, to engage in the most acute situations of threat to the freedom of religion or belief outside of the EU.

Along with other experts, Figel was a special guest at the conference, stating that work in the field of Freedom of Religion and Belief is an important job for mankind and needs to be more visible. In order to increase visibility and to make a positive change, he emphasized the need for the combination of political enthusiasm, and economic expertise within the field.

One topic of the conference was that of ‘crisis, hope, and opportunity’ with regards to religious discrimination. As Professor Pasquale Annicchino, Adjunct Professor of Law at St. John’s Law School in New York, stated, we often discuss what the state can do for the FoRB, while it is often the state that is the problem. We should, therefore, be asking enterprises and civil society for solutions. Currently there is a temptation for totalitarian solutions to crises, and we need to make the issues known so we can find humanistic solutions. Annicchino stated that any type of religious registry should be fought against, and in the current case of the United States, the country will no longer be credible in any Muslim country when speaking about Freedom of Religion or Belief if such a registry is instated—this will just be a proof of hypocrisy. In addition, such a registry is also especially dangerous, as ‘language creates reality’ and what happens in the United States affects other countries worldwide.

Another subject that multiple speakers emphasized upon was the importance of education. Jan Figel highlighted the importance of promoting tolerance in young children, and David Rutley (British MP), stated that young people must be taught to think outside the box in order to critically assess information and that this would lead to a more respectful society. Professor Rochow, stated that although those between the ages of 18 and 30 are arguably the most educated generation due to the age of technology, they are also the most religiously illiterate, and ignorant to the beliefs of others. This, in a world where religious millennials are a minority. It is therefore important to accentuate education in the diversity of beliefs in order to create a tolerant, and most importantly, understanding society.

Soteria has supported, and maintains, the stance on the important role of education to create a peaceful and harmonious society, with individuals who are given more space to think freely and evolve individually, rather than be confined within the format of certain social presets. More specifically, the current educational system can improve on the integration of  emotional education in human life, the mechanisms of emotions and of their control, the role of the Heart as the spiritual center of the human being, and the spiritual meaning of emotions. Such an education, based on spiritual values and the significance of borderline science, would aid in advancing the field of human consciousness.  Soteria hosted a round table conference on this subject in 2010, the summary for which can be accessed here.



European Commission Press Release May 6, 2016: