Press Release: Standing up for Freedom of Religion or Belief

PRESS RELEASE No. 14/35
17 November 2014

Standing up for Freedom of Religion or Belief

Training on Freedom of Religion or Belief took place from 12-15 November in Elstal, Germany. The training was hosted by the Union of Free churches in Germany, organized by the European Baptist Federation (EBF) and the Church and Society Commission of the Conference of European Churches (CEC).

The event brought together around 40 participants from 15 countries, from a number of different organisations. During the four days of training, participants worked together on different areas relating to freedom of religion or belief.

During the Market Place, participants discussed current challenges in the field.
Violations of religious freedom or belief and migration issues, racism, extremisim, and gender issues emerged as priority areas for the group.

The group addressed the need for respect of human rights and humanitarian law in the relationship to the current political situation in Ukraine, Israel-Palestine and Syria-Irak.  During the training sessions, participants learned about a new methodology in the Human Rights education called “Theatre of the Oppressed”, where participants took part in a play dealing with a situation that demonstrated difficulties with freedom of religion or belief, with an emphasis on conversion.

A variety of lectures were held each day, including on theology and human rights, freedom of religion or belief in prisons, and freedom of religion or belief in relationship to other fundamental human rights. The presentation on theology and human rights emphasised that all people are created in the image of God and that protection of human dignity is a key link between theology and human rights in the public sphere. Participants affirmed that the dignity of the human being is inviolable.

Prof. Barbara John, Vice –Chair of European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI) encouraged churches, especially religious minorities to report human rights abuses to the national representatives to ECRI.

Mr. Frank Heinrich, Member of German Parliament and Member of Committee on Human Rights and Humanitarian Aid underlined that human rights and religious freedom for Christians rests on the underlying values of their faith which have greatly influenced the development of human rights.

The follow up of this gathering will be a conference on Freedom of Religion or Belief in Sofia, Bulgaria in September 2015 organized by the Baptist Union of Bulgaria and the European Baptist Federation.

More information may be obtained by contacting Mag. Elizabeta Kitanovic, Executive Secretary for Human Rights, Church and Society Commission.

CEC Offices in Brussels:
Ecumenical Centre
rue Joseph II, 174,
BE-1000 Brussels
Tel: +32 2 230 17 32
Fax: +32 2 231 14 13

The Conference of European Churches (CEC) is a fellowship of some 114 Orthodox, Protestant, Anglican and Old Catholic Churches from all countries of Europe, plus 40 associated organisations. CEC was founded in 1959. It has offices in Geneva, Brussels and Strasbourg.

The Church and Society Commission of CEC links member churches and associated organisations of CEC with the European Union’s institutions, the Council of Europe, the OSCE, NATO and the UN (on European matters). Its task is to help the churches study church and society questions from a theological and social-ethical perspective, especially those with a European dimension, and to represent common positions of the member churches in their relations with political institutions working in Europe.

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