Archive for the ‘religious freedom’ category

Mapping Migration: Mapping Churches’ Responses: Europe Study

March 7, 2012

Darrell Jackson and Alessia Passarelli’s report on migration in Europe was prepared for the Churches’ Commission for Migrants in Europe and set out to inform as wide an audience as possible about the realities of migration in contemporary Europe.

Migration studies is particularly complex and the facts have to compete with the rhetoric and misinformation that often predominates in popular debate.  This report, though now three years old, remains an important resource for empirical migration studies setting out statistics for 47 European countries.  It also includes introductory chapters which describe the nature and patterns of contemporary migration in Europe, theological approaches to the subject, and highlights some examples of how churches are responding to migration.

We are very happy to make it available for free download – just click below for the pdf
Mapping Migration: Mapping Churches Responses 

Georgia passes new freedom of religion legislation

July 9, 2011

On the 5th July 2011 the Georgian Parliament passed into law new legislation that ensures the religious freedoms of ‘religious groups recognized as religious organizations in member States of the Council of Europe or having close historic ties with Georgia.’

Initial drafts limited the freedoms to just five groups, the Armenian Apostolic Church, the Evangelical Baptist church of Georgia, the Roman Catholic Church, and the Jewish and Muslim communities of Georgia, in addition to the special status still accorded the Orthodox Church of Georgia. The Baptist Archbishop in Georgia, Malkhaz Songulashvili, reports that following the release of the first draft, Bishop Rusudan Gotziridze (Baptist), lobbied the parliament and requested that the legislation should be extended to all religious groups in Georgia. The draft was subsequently amended to meet this request. A press release from the Embassy of Georgia in London specifically refers to Evangelicals being granted the same freedoms.

According to the Embassy’s press release, lawmaker, Nugzar Tsiklauri, said ‘Georgia is a multi-ethnic and multi-confessional country and every citizen of this country, regardless of what religion he belongs to, must have equal rights.’

Previously it has only been possible for the majority of religious organisations to register as a non-profit association. The new legislation now allows for registration as a religious association although the lawmakers have been careful to allow religious organisations to decide whether they want to continue as a non-profit association or register as a religious association. The legislation is designed to ensure maximum flexibility for such organisations.

A copy of the press release can be downloaded here.

Cross over borders

August 17, 2010

De Zeit ran a piece earlier this week under the title ‘Willkommen, ihr Götter!‘ (‘Welcome, ye Gods!’ but referred to more prosaically by Presseurop as ‘For the Free Movement of Gods‘). In its plea for a ‘Europe of religions’, De Zeit reports on the legal representations currently being made to the European court of human rights by Armenia, Bulgaria, Lithuania, Malta, Russia, San Marino and Cyprus alongside the defendant, Italy. All parties are now being represented by a leading European lawyer who is a practising Jew.

The inevitability of legal action such as this might have been predicted by national politicians and courts that have decided that in a religiously plural Europe, the only option remaining for a secular state is to ban all religious symbols from the public domain.

The future  management by European States of religious plurality (and it’s important to remember that polls consistently indicate that on average, over 60 per cent of Europeans self identify as being ‘religious’) cannot be allowed to consist of little more than moves to eradicate all public signs of the presence of religious plurality. The more significant and long term issue is to address the privilege and power that religious majorities readily accrue for themselves and which is to be seen in brazen or ugly attempts at forcing others to acknowledge, venerate or wear a particular religious symbol, irrespective of their personal convictions.

Steering a course between the clumsy policies of religiously illiterate Governments and the oppressive instincts of religious mono-cultures calls for a re-evaluation of the public value of faith in Europe. This seems all too obvious as it’s clear that Europe has not always been a secular continent and there are still many countries in Europe that would consider its citizens to be self-evidently religious. To consign religiosity to the private world of the individual overlooks totally the contribution made every day to public service, public welfare and charity by millions of European citizens due to their religious motivation.

Reflecting on this as a missiologist, I am struck by the continuing European debate with its own Christendom past (and in some instance, Christendom present). Resentment, suspicion, cynicism, disillusionment are common enough reactions to any form of religious expression, yet it seems that these attitudes more readily adhere to state-sponsored, state-approved, majority churches that too readily manipulate or deploy the legal apparatus of the State to preserve their favoured status in the nation.

As the Presseurop report reminds us, in its conclusion, ‘Each cross atop a church in European cities is there to remind us that the way in which we live is not the only possible reality.’

This is deeply challenging stuff, and it reminds me that the cross speaks of an alternative to political domination and economic aggrandisement. To wear or to erect a cross should be, above all else, a gesture that indicates a willingness to serve and sacrifice, in the name of Jesus of Nazareth, for the sake of other citizens with whom we share our European home. That ought to be core to Christian mission in Europe.

Turkey, EU membership & religious minorities

August 13, 2010

As the secular state of Turkey continues the long and drawn out journey towards membership of the EU, there remain important aspects of its commitment to religious freedom that need urgent attention. Forum 18 reports on the why it is still the case that Jewish, Greek Orthodox and Armenian Apostolic leaders are chosen with government permission as leaders of religious communities which do not exist in law and whose personal positions are not recognised in law.

These three religious communities strive very carefully to avoid confrontation with the Turkish state authorities but de facto are expected to seek permission from the Turkish state to elect new leaders for their respective communities. This is not legally required but it is widely acknowledged that if it were not sought, it would be extremely difficult for those leaders to gain recognition from the state as the representative leader of the religious community.

There three groups are recognised by the Lausanne Treaty of 1923  as legitimate ethnically composed religious communities. Other groups, including evangelicals, are not recognised as religious communities and so may choose their own leaders without the expectation of state interference. However, these leaders are not recognised therefore by the Turkish state as representing any religious community or church. Christian mission presence in Turkey must also exist in a ‘grey zone’ of existence.

The Orthodox Church has been present in Istanbul (formerly Constantinople) for over 1600 years but in 2007 the Turkish courts ruled that the leader of the Orthodox Church in Turkey was not to be called the ‘Ecumenical Patriarch’ but the ‘Patriarch of the Fanar’ (The Fanar is the Istanbul district in which his residence is based) and that he had no authority over Orthodox churches outside of Turkey. All this is despite the fact the world Orthodox community clearly views him as the ‘Ecumenical Patriarch’ with authority over quite a number of scattered Orthodox communities in other parts of the world.

There is certainly a geographical and economic case to be made for Turkish membership of the EU, but until such dangerous eccentricities in its treatment of its religious minorities are addressed, Turkey is likely to face considerable opposition to its membership from other member countries of the EU.

March for religious liberty in Rome

July 20, 2010

The World Evangelical Alliance reports on a recent religious liberty gathering in Rome which culminated in a gathering at Campo de’ Fiori, the place where ‘heretics’ through the centuries have been burnt.

The event organisers, including the Italian Evangelical Alliance, called for fairer treatment and more equitable access for religious minority groups by the state broadcaster RAI.

For more see the report at: