CEC Meets Special Envoy Ján Figeľ: Promoting Freedom of Religion or Belief outside the EU

27 October, 2016

Press Release No: 16/38
27 October 2016

On 26 October, CEC General Secretary Fr Heikki Huttunen and Dr Elizabeta Kitanovic, CEC Executive Secretary responsible for human rights, met with Dr Ján Figeľ Special Envoy for the promotion of freedom of religion or belief outside of the EU and his team in Brussels.

In his exchange with CEC representatives, Mr Figeľ said that religion was too far from the European integration agenda and talking about religion as a standard issue should lead to a culture of dialogue. “If we don’t understand religion, we don’t understand the world,” he remarked.

CEC General Secretary Fr Heikki Huttunen emphasized not only the broad European reach of CEC, but its global relations as well, underscoring that churches are present in all regions of the world. Recently CEC has carried out several events addressing freedom of religion or belief. These include a conference at the Theological School of Halki, a hearing at the European Parliament on establishing and maintain religious freedom in the world, and a recent consultation in Zagreb (Croatia) on religious minorities in culturally diverse societies. The CEC Thematic Reference Group on Human Rights is collating results from a survey of churches on the evaluation of EU guidelines on the promotion and protection of freedom and religion or belief outside the EU. The evaluation of these guidelines by the EEAS should take place in 2016.

Dr Kitanovic updated the Special Envoy on other current activities, including calls from the European churches to the European Institutions to prepare a separate report on freedom of religion outside the EU and another on the state of fundamental rights and freedoms within the EU. This will enhance EU credibility on this subject, especially in terms of addressing issues related to migration and religious freedom.

The mandate of the Special Envoy includes the role of freedom of religion or belief in the area of international cooperation and development, article 17 of the Treaty of the Functioning of the European Union, and conflicts where freedom of religion or belief is violated, including through forced-conversions and blasphemy legislation. The impetus for this new post emerged following the murder of Coptic Christians in Libya.

Related links:

Religious Minorities in Diverse Societies: Consultation in Croatia Builds Bridges (CEC Press Release, 24 October 2016)

A Human Right Set Aside: European Parliament event spotlights freedom of religion(CEC Press Release, 28 September 2016)

Advancing Freedom of Religion or Belief for All: Experts gather at Halki (CEC Press Release, 9 September 2015)

For more information or an interview, please contact:

Erin Green
Communication Coordinator

Conference of European Churches
Rue Joseph II, 174 B-1000 Brussels
Tel. +32 2 234 68 42
Fax +32 2 231 14 13
E-mail: eeg@cec-kek.be
Website: www.ceceurope.org
Facebook: www.facebook.com/ceceurope
Twitter: @ceceurope

The Conference of European Churches (CEC) is a fellowship of 115 Orthodox, Protestant, Anglican and Old Catholic Churches from all across Europe, plus more than 40 National Council of Churches and Organisations in Partnership. CEC was founded in 1959. It has offices in Brussels and Strasbourg.
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