The SPIRITUAL HUMAN RIGHTS 2008 international conference, which took place in Copenhagen, Denmark, on the 8th and 9th of December 2008, concluded with a unanimous conviction that the human rights, as they are widely understood today, do not give an adequate protection to spiritual practitioners, and do not cover in a sufficient way the spiritual needs and aspects of the individual’s life and the society. All participants agreed upon the need for a new understanding of the subject of human rights, which will cover also the spiritual aspects of life, and which will be based upon the universally valid spiritual values. The participants of the conference called for the search after, and forming of, such a new vision upon human rights – human rights as seen from a spiritual perspective – the spiritual human rights.
The conference began with a discussion presenting different examples and situations of contemporary violation of the rights of spiritual practitioners. Among the different cases reported by the participants where: the case of the Movement for Spiritual Integration into the Absolute (M.I.S.A.) in Romania; the case of the Raelian movement in France, Switzerland, Belgium and in Quebec; the abusive monitoring against spiritual movements in Paris; the brutal offence of religious sentiments in the name of so-called “art” in Russia; the legal steps taken against volunteer spiritual work in Germany; and other cases. This discussion was marked by a common agreement of the participants that these cases mark a wider phenomena, and that the existing laws and human rights fail to provide adequate protection for spiritual practitioners, and are not aligned with important spiritual notions.
In a later discussion was presented and discussed a new vision upon human rights: human rights in the light of a spiritual paradigm. In this discussion were discussed arguments concerning the existence of forms of violations of human rights which are not covered by the current understanding of human rights – violations which are done not with the body, but with the mind. Were also discussed the existence and importance of human rights which were not addressed in the field of human rights before - rights such as the right to know the Truth and to search for it, the rights of future generations and also other rights as well. Where also discussed notions such as free will, freedom of conscience and freedom thought – as seen form this new paradigm. Many participants expressed their opinion that the current vision upon the subject is now insufficient, and that this new paradigm gives a much better understanding of the needs of humanity and of the ways to fulfill those human needs.
The first day of the conference closed with a workshop directed at creating a brain-storming for raising various suggestions for ways of preventing intolerance and infringements of the rights of spiritual practitioners.
The second day began with a discussion upon the results of the brain storming from the first day. Was expressed, by many of the participants, the need to define a set of universal principles, valid and common to all the various religions and authentic spiritual paths – a system of universal morality, or the inherent laws of the universe – as a basis for the development of a new understanding of the human existence, the society, and the universal human rights. During this discussion, the different suggestions mentioned in the first day where divided into 3 categories, in order to be worked upon in groups later on.
The following session served as a workshop in which the participants divided into 3 groups, each group discussed one of the 3 general categories of considerations mentioned the previous day. Each group developed the specific ideas, brought up more specific suggestions and raised certain relevant questions, regarding the subject of the group’s work.
The first group worked on the subject of culture and education. This group focused first on attempting to define certain notions about the fundamental values of humanity, common to all authentic traditions and cultures, which should be at the basis of the culture and education of the society. In the proposed list of fundamental values where, among other values, the following: courage, love, generosity and care for everybody, responsibility for ones own actions and for the community, conscience, promotion of art and beauty, truth, wisdom, the search for truth, perfection and happiness, common sense, creativity, transformation, the coexistence of diversity and unity. Secondly, the group discussed ideas for promoting culture and education which will be based upon the fundamental values. Among the different ideas mentioned were the promotion of these values in discussions with the educational system and the media; holding seminars, lectures, workshops and other events to explain these values; petitions and lobbying for think-tanks.
The second group worked on the subject of the role and responsibilities of the individual, the state, and the religious and spiritual organizations, in protecting the human rights of spiritual practitioners. The discussion was focused on reaching a theoretical and principal understanding of the roles of each of the components in this equation. Among the conclusions of this group discussion are the following – role of the individual: the responsibility to do the spiritual training, and the responsibility to choose the right thing; role of the spiritual and religious organizations: to assume an educational role in society, to promote absolute values; role of the state: the responsibility to provide the proper conditions for spiritual practice, to protect the society from destructive elements, yet, the state does not decide what is good and what is not good (because only those who have directly experienced something can determine it’s nature), the state should provide proper education to the whole society, and this will lead also to educated leaders and politicians which will lead the country in a wise manner (proper educations means education which includes in it also the spiritual values). There was also mentioned the need for inter-dialogue between the state and the spiritual and religious organizations.
The third group discussed possible activities at the social, political and scientific levels, meant to promote the rights of spiritual practitioners and the new understanding of the spiritual human rights. Among the suggestions of this group: to hold a spiritual human rights conference which will focus upon the scientific perspective of the spiritual human rights; to keep workshops which will describe, from a scientific point of view, relevant spiritual notions such as the soul, egrigor (the soul of a nation), free will, resonance, man being created in the image of God; to open research groups which will study different considerations and subjects related to the spiritual human rights, and which will gather scientific knowledge which already exists and restructure it under a new paradigm; lobbying at the political level for the respecting of the human rights of spiritual practitioners, through letters and appeals to members of Parliament; the group also discussed whether the spiritual human rights could be secured within any political structure, and examined possibilities of different structures that could achieve this, such as the idea of a spiritual ministry.
The conference concluded with a discussion in which was presented a Soteria International proposal for a Declaration Draft regarding the spiritual human rights, which was then discussed, commented and worked upon by the participants of the conference. The representative of the Russian Orthodox church presented a Declaration of Human Rights and Dignity which was formulated by the council of the Russian Orthodox church and adopted by the World Russian People’s council, and which presents a different view upon the subject of human rights and spirituality. At the conclusion of the conference, all the participants agreed that the declaration draft, originally suggested by Soteria International, is a positive initiative and that it should be published and serve as the base for further discussion on the subject of the spiritual human rights, and to contribute to the preparations for the next international conference: Spiritual Human Rights 2009. To these conclusions are added as appendix the above mentioned declaration draft by Soteria International (and developed by the participants of the conference), with the purpose of promoting a public discussion on the subject of the Spiritual Human Rights.
In conclusion, the participants of the conference called for further discussion on the subject of the spiritual human rights, and stressed the need to raise these questions to the awareness of widening circles of the society. The participants also called for further work aimed at developing a new spiritual paradigm upon the subject of human rights.