ECPM Resolution on Religious Freedom

For the first time, our youth organization ECPYouth proposed a resolution during the ECPM General Assembly. All members voted in favour of the resolution, which calls on the European Commission and the Member States to protect religious freedom, combat anti-religious violence and support faith-based organisations.

On the 11th of June 2016 during the ECPM General Assembly in Rotterdam, the Netherlands, ECPYouth's Political Secretary Ardjan Boersma presented a resolution on behalf of ECPYouth. All ECPM members have unanimously voted in favour of the ECPM Resolution on the Defence of Religious Freedom and the Combat of Anti-Religious Manifestations. The full text of the resolution is available below this article.

ECPYouth is glad with this accomplishment: “All in favour! For the first time ECPYouth proposed a resolution at the ECPM General Assembly. Strong support was given by the board, MEPs, member organisations and other affiliated parties. Thank you and let's keep working on making the voice of European youth heard!” 

ECPM Resolution on the Defence of Religious Freedom and the Combat of Anti-Religious Manifestations

All across the European Union (EU), anti-religious manifestations are increasing. People following a certain religion are under threat, whether it be Jews, Christians, Muslims or others. 

According to the Community Security Trust (CST) anti-Semitic incidents in the United Kingdom in the last two years doubled from 535 (2013) to 1.179 (2014) and 924 (2015). 24 May 2014, four people lost their lives when the Jewish Museum of Belgium was attacked by a radical Islamist Frenchman. It was the first deadly attack against Jews in Belgium since the 1980s. The Jewish community in France was seriously hit in January 2015, when a Jewish supermarket in Paris was attacked and four people were murdered. While Jews represent less than one percent of the general population of France, 40% of all registered racist acts in 2015 had an anti-Semitic character. February 2015, a Jewish security guard was shot at the Great Synagogue in Copenhagen (Denmark) during a bar mitzvah ceremony.  In the Netherlands, anti-Semitic incidents at secondary schools in 2015 reached its highest level for over a decade. According to the Pew Research Center (PRC), Jews face social hostility in 34 of the 45 European countries (76%) – more than in any other region in the world. The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) points out that Anti-Semitic attitudes are strong in Eastern Europe, especially in Poland, Bulgaria, Serbia, Croatia and Hungary. Here, the most widespread anti-Semitic opinion is that Jews have too much power in the business world and the international financial market.

Sadly, antisemitism isn’t the only anti-religious manifestation Europe faces, as adherents of other religious groups are threatened as well. The PRC finds that Muslims experience intimidation in nearly as many European countries as Jews – 32 out of 45 (71%). Anti-Muslim behaviour increases after the occurrence of terrorist attacks undertaken by extremist Muslims. This objectionable phenomenon occurred for example after the attacks in France (November 2015) and Belgium (March 2016).

Besides anti-Semitic and anti-Muslim hatred, intolerance against Christians is widespread. In 2015, attacks on Christians and Christian buildings rose significantly in Europe and throughout the world. Therefore in February 2016, Members of the European Parliament proposed a resolution calling on the European Commission to do everything within its power to combat anti-Christian acts and to protect Christian buildings. A few weeks ago, Open Doors Deutschland presented a deeply distressing report showing that Christian refugees in Germany are suffering from  discrimination, intimidation and even death threats and sexual assaults. Already in December 2015 proposals have been done to protect Christian refugees.

Considering the above, the European Christian Political Movement: 
in the strongest possible terms condemns all anti-religious violence. Anti-religious manifestations are an attack on the most important fundamental values the EU is built upon – freedom of faith and conscience, freedom of opinion and expression, plurality, respect. 

While stressing and greatly appreciating the role of the Council of Europe (CoE) in fighting the infringement of human rights, 

the ECPM calls on the European Commission to protect the fundamental rights of faith communities and to fight for mutual understanding between religious minorities, based on the positions taken by the CoE.

Every believer should experience the sense of freedom and safety. The Members of the ECPM support the recent initiatives undertaken by the European Commission to combat Anti-Jewish and anti-Muslim hatred, and call on the European Commission to take a similar stance regarding intolerance against Christians.

However, the ECPM wants to go further than the Commission in positively acknowledging the societal importance of religion in the Member States of the European Union. Religion – especially Judaism and Christianity – paid a priceless contribution to European civilisation and European integration. Faith and faith communities such as churches are the cement of society. 

Therefore, the Members of the ECPM call on the European Commission and the Member States to intensify funding of faith based organisations that have a broader political and societal importance and that aim to foster the well-being of the whole society, while stressing that the aims and measures of these organisations should not conflict with the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR). 

Education – as a responsibility of the Member States – is starting point in increasing mutual respect. 

The ECPM stresses that the battle against anti-religious behaviour, discrimination and hatred, whether it be anti-Semitism, anti-Muslim hatred or anti-Christian attitudes, couldn’t be fought better than in classrooms. As the First Vice-President of the European Commission Frans Timmermans recently said, education is and should always remain the most important instrument against ‘ignorance, intolerance, indifference’. 

However, education not only should play a role in combating negative attitudes, but also in stimulating positive attitudes towards religion. 

The ECPM calls on the Member States of the European Union to acknowledge and strengthen religious teaching – again, not conflicting with the ECHR – as a substantial and essential part of primary and secondary education.

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