The European Post reported today on the launch of the annual Interim Report of the European Parliament Intergroup for Freedom of Religion or Belief and Religious Tolerance.
“We are particularly concerned about the lack of religious freedom especially in three countries: Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and India!” said Peter Van Dalen (Netherlands, ECR/ECPM), a Member of the European Parliament and co-chair of the EP Intergroup on Religion Freedom or Belief outside the EU, during the presentation of the Interim Report on FoRB 2017 at the European Parliament today.
“Saudi Arabia continues to support wahhabism (identified by the European Parliament in Strasbourg as the main source of global terrorism in 2013) which is a threat for us all, while in Pakistan there are many “Asia Bibi” because of the continuing death sentences for blasphemy ,” continued the Dutch MP.
Van Dalen also stressed the dramatic situation in India, a country with which the EU maintains close ties.
“Since Narendra Modi rose to power with his nationalist party in 2014, the situation has become worse and worse and now the position of religious minorities have become even more alarming,” he denounced.
During an event held at the European Parliament in March 2017, a representative from the Indian Embassy in Brussels shouted down delegates, telling them their allegation of mistreatment of minorities in the country were fabrications that belonged in the past, the Report FoRB 2017 reminds.
“Anti-conversion laws” in seven Indian states, and discrimination based upon caste and religion, are among the issues also highlighted by the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF).
The Report of the European Parliament Intergroup on Religious Freedom in 2017 also noted that during the EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs Federica Mogherini’s recent trip to India, trade and security seemed to be the priority but no mention of human rights were made.
“If we don’t take human rights seriously within the EU we cannot be credible outside of the EU” the other co-chairman of the Intergroup MEP Denis De Jong added.
EU Special Envoy for Religious Freedom Jan Figel also attended the event and called religious freedom “the litmus test of all human rights. If FoRB is not present, then other freedoms are surely suffering. Eliminating religious freedom means helping the terrorists to achieve what they want!”
About Figel’s role, Vice President of the European Parliament Mairead McGuinness highlighted during the event’s introduction that the Special Envoy post needs to be strengthened and noted the importance of working to promote and defend religious freedom at European level.
Moving intervention given by Meriam Ibrahim telling the audience about her experience as sentenced in Sudan to death for being a Christian.
The Report considers ‘shocking‘ Professor Francois Foret‘s research results revealing that among EU diplomats, the awareness and expertise on EU Guidelines for FoRB are very low. The Intergroup recommended the EEAS to set up a targeted campaign to raise more awareness of FoRB within all the EU delegations and its diplomats.
The General Conclusion of the Report
IT IS NOT UNFAIR TO SAY THAT HARDLY ANY OF THE 2016 RECOMMENDATIONS TO THE EEAS, THE COMMISSION AND THE COUNCIL WERE IMPLEMENTED.
To simply repeat, similar recommendations, year after year, is pointless. We therefore asked ourselves why the European institutions are not giving more prominence to human rights and fundamental freedoms in general, and to freedom of religion or belief in particular.
Firstly, we cannot help but notice that in the international arena, the EU has less allies than before in its fight for the promotion and protection of human rights. Recent developments in the US, Turkey and Russia are not encouraging, to say the least. At the same time, ever more governments of third countries deny the universal nature of human rights and see these as a reflection of ‘western societies’.
Secondly, it has become more difficult for the EU to be convincing in its relations with third countries, since within the EU there are also certain governments who see human rights and the rule of law as obstacles for their own policies, instead of values on which the EU is based…
At the same time, we have to acknowledge that freedom of religion or belief continues to be imperilled throughout the world. Places of worship and assembly continue to be attacked, religious and belief groups continue to suffer on account of their convictions and governments continue to oppress the right of their citizens to exercise their freedom of thought, conscience, religion or belief.
Faced with these challenges, the importance of the EU sticking to its tradition of promoting and protecting freedom of religion or belief cannot be overestimated. If even the EU or any of its member states deny the universal value of the freedom to manifest one’s religion or belief, the global picture will become even gloomier.
Hence, we call upon the European institutions to show their determination to fight for human rights and fundamental freedoms, including the freedom of religion or belief….
We hope that next year’s report can be a reflection of strengthened engagement of the EU-institutions with the promotion and protection of freedom of religion or belief. The EU itself, its citizens and the world deserve this.