Crucial resolution on religious freedom in Europe adopted

ECPM is pleased to announce that the draft resolution ‘Tackling intolerance and discrimination in Europe with a special focus on Christianity’, as amended, has been adopted with the majority of the votes in the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe. The report stresses the intolerance and discrimination on grounds of religion or belief towards minority religious groups in Europe and people belonging to a major religious group. The report states that ‘Numerous acts of hostility, violence and vandalism have been recorded in recent years against Christians and their places of worship, but these acts are often overlooked by the national authorities.’

ECPM member Mr. Valeriu Giletchi, from Republic of Moldova, in his capacity as the rapporteur on ‘Tackling intolerance and discrimination in Europe with a special focus on Christianity’ invoked that the religious freedom should be part of our Assembly and that ensuring religious freedom is essential in Europe. Despite the fact that it might seem difficult to view Christians as victims in Europe, discrimination against these latter is more subtle, and more dangerous. He stated that growing tensions has become a massive global problem.

Leo van Doesburg (Director for European Affairs ECPM),  who has been very active in promoting the resolution, was very pleased with the outcome of the vote: “This is a victory for real freedom and real plurality in Europe as it strongly confirms the freedom of religion in Europe being one of the foundational pillars of our continent.”

The report proposes reasonable accommodation of religious beliefs in Europe. In fact, as it is stated in the report: ‘The reasonable accommodation of religious beliefs and practices constitutes a pragmatic means of ensuring the effective and full enjoyment of freedom of religion.’

Speakers from all the parliamentary groups warmly welcomed the report. The first to speak was Mr. Gunnarsson (Sweden, SOC), who stated that, reasonable accommodation could be used, among others, as a tool to accommodate people without physical disabilities. Mr. Quitanilla (Spain, EPP/CD), stressed the importance of this report as it emphasized the tolerance in living together. Other speakers mentioned that there are at least 400.000 Christians in Islamic states who are persecuted. In fact, it was emphasized that, in the present century more Christians were killed than ever. Every 4 minutes, a Christian is killed. Furthermore, the report combats hatred and intolerance.

Pozzo di Borgo (France, EPP/CD), Kronlid (Sweden, MR), Leigh (United Kingdom, EC), Selin (Poland, EC), Fiala (ALDE), Lord Anderson (United Kingdom, SOC), Hoffman (Hungary, EPP/CD), Miller (Canada, observer), Schneider (Switzerland, EPP/CD), Pintado (Spain, EPP/CD), Wach (Poland, EPP/CD) and many others agreed that the intolerance against Christians is increasing and that propagation against Christian minorities should stop. Christians are the most persecuted religious community and there is a moral obligation to protect them. We should strengthen the fundamental basis for Europe which is solidarity, democracy and freedom.

Furthermore, it was emphasized that there is a need to promote respect and peaceful co-existence of the religions within the members of the Council of Europe and beyond. It was highlighted several times that because in Europe, the discrimination against Christians is more subtle, the church will bounce back. Therefore, the Council of Europe has a role in this matter and European countries should be an example to other countries.

Mr. Ungaryan (Ukraine) was very active during the debate. He recalled how his family and he personally, had suffered intolerance in the former Soviet Union because of their Baptist Evangelical faith. Another interesting intervention was made by Mr. Szczerski (Poland, EC), who stated that "even in Poland, we see many anti-Christian propaganda which are justified as acts of modernization".

The Committee on the Equality and Non-Discrimination and the Assembly rejected two amendments which proposed to distort the meaning of the report and approved three others, admitted by the rapporteur also, which improved certain specific points.

The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe approved the resolution with 67 votes against 2. The whole Assembly congratulated the Rapporteur Mr. Valeriu Giletchi for the excellent report. ECPM is convinced that the resolution ‘Tackling intolerance and discrimination in Europe with a special focus on Christianity’ is crucial for the fight against discrimination of any sort, of Christians in Europe and worldwide. 

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