A report originally written to help the EU fight the persecution of faith minorities was watered down before its approval. The European Evangelical Alliance warns about the risks of minimising the importance of certain human rights.
A report on the persecution of religious minorities initially written to encourage the European Union to better protect Freedom of Religion or Belief (FoRB) around the world was strongly weakened before it was adopted by the European Parliament, its proponents said.
Karol Karski, from Poland, was the Member of the European Parliament who led the writing of the report in the EU’s Foreign Affairs Committee.
The original text encouraged the European Union to better combat religious intolerance, especially in the “more than 70 countries” where new laws punishing blasphemy and apostasy are being implemented. It also underlined that most people persecuted for their faith in the world are Christians.
Karski and other parliamentarians working on the report criticised the day before the final vote on Tuesday 3 May that the text had been significantly amended by certain political groups, making its content less specific and removing references to Christianity. The ammendents also added issues to the report that were not related to the original purpose of the report, including criticism of religions.
“The report is weak, much weaker than previous reports on the same topic”, says Arie de Pater, Brussels representative of the European Evangelical Alliance (EEA). “Many relevant details were taken out by amendments and new not so relevant details were added”, de Pater told Evangelical Focus.
The EEA representative in Brussels has worked with other groups in helping promote freedom of religion or belief in Europe and elsewhere. “The report is no longer unequivocally supporting minorities persecuted on grounds of religion or belief”, he says, and “is also accusing religion or belief communities of persecution (of LGBTI people and women for example). Of course, persecution of LGBTI people and women is abject and should be fought but adding it to a report like this does not do justice to either persecution of religious minorities or of LGBTI and women. Combining the two undermines the justified attention to Freedom of Religion or Belief”.
The persecution of religion or belief minorities “should be taken more seriously by both the European Parliament and the European Commission”, says de Pater, who points to worrying details such as the fact that this latest report “is often referring to ‘belief or religion’ rather than ‘religion or belief’”.
What troubles the EEA representative most is that “this report is a serious indication that adherents of a religion or a belief no longer recognise and respect each other as beneficiaries of the same human right, Freedom of Religion or Belief, but as competitors. This misconception threatens the whole scope and purpose of this fundamental human right”.
This latest European Parliament report on faith minorities outside its borders comes as the European Union continues to have a vacancy in the post of Special Envoy for Freedom of Religion and Belief.
Both NGOs and Members of the European Parliament had repeatedly asked the European Commission to find a substitute for the Slovakian Jan Figel’, the first person in the post until 2019 when his mandate expired.
For two years, the Commission seemed unable to choose a successor, until it elected finally in the Cypriot Christos Stylianides in May 2021. Nonetheless, Stylianides left the post only half a year later. Experts in the field have often expressed their frustration at what they see as a lack of interest of the European Commission in Freedom of Religion or Belief.
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