EEA Applauds as EU Marks Major Step in Adopting Religious Freedom Guidelines

  • In NEWS
  • August 14, 2013
The European Evangelical Alliance welcomes the adoption of the EU Guidelines on the Promotion and Protection of Freedom of Religion or Belief on Monday 24 June. The Foreign Affairs Ministers of all 27 Member States of the EU gathered yesterday in Luxembourg to adopt the Religious Freedom Guidelines. The Guidelines were developed by the European External Action Service (EEAS) and EU Member States in consultation with civil society, including EPRID, the European Platform on Religious Intolerance and Discrimination, which was founded in September 2006 by Open Doors International, Christian Solidarity Worldwide and the European Evangelical Alliance. Today, it is a diverse network of organisations with one goal: promote freedom of religion or belief (FoRB) at EU level. The new Guidelines are a foreign policy document establishing the strategic priority of FoRB in the external policy of the European Union. They provide wide-ranging, practical tools around the world for EU officials, delegations and EU Member State embassies on understanding, monitoring, and promoting freedom of religion or belief, as well as raising awareness of this right in non-EU countries. They strengthen the EU’s capacity to defend religious freedom both by reacting to violations of FoRB, and addressing the structural causes that lead to these violations. This is also a tool that will benefit the people and communities who suffer intolerance, discrimination and persecution in the world. Since the Guidelines are a public diplomacy document, victims will from now on be able to report what they endure to EU Delegations and Member States embassies, and ask them to intervene according to the instructions of the Guidelnes. EU officials and diplomats will have a duty to monitor, assess, carry out public actions or encourage official government visits to deal with existing problems. The Guidelines even include the possibility of suspending cooperation and financial assistance where violations of freedom of religion or belief occur. One of the highlights in the process that lead to what we are celebrating today is the active inclusion of civil society in the consultations that lead to the adoption of this text over the course of 9 months. EEA was regularly invited and contributed actively, alongside EPRID colleagues, to the drafting process. “So, finally, for us, this celebration is more than that of the adoption of a public diplomacy document,” said Mr Christel Lamère Ngnambi, Brussels Representative of the European Evangelical Alliance, who also serves as Board Member of EPRID, who was asked to speak at a cocktail celebration on Monday at the European Parliament in Brussels. “It is also a celebration of a significant and fruitful success story of civil society organisations working hand in hand with public institutions to increase the solidity and the efficiency of policymaking.” “Freedom of religion or belief is a litmus test for other human rights and fundamental freedoms”  Mr Ngnambi said. Quoting the Global Charter of Conscience, he added, “It does not finally depend on the favours of the state and its officials, or the changing will of majorities. Likewise, it is far more than freedom for the religious: it is a core right for all human beings that cannot in any instance be taken from them altogether.” The EEA will continue to work with public institutions to ensure that adequate capacity is developed for training and monitoring, and other measures to promote freedom of religion or belief. Ngnambi: “Promoting freedom of religion or belief is not only a moral or legal obligation, but also a strategic political choice.”

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