EU creates new position to address Religious Freedom issues worldwide
The President of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker, has just created a new position specifically to address and tackle the growing restrictions on religious freedom internationally. The decision follows last February’s resolution on the systematic mass murder being committed by ISIS, in which the European Parliament called for the creation of a role to deal specifically with such matters.
Slovak politician Ján Figel, a former European Union Commissioner, has been appointed special envoy for the promotion of freedom of religion and belief outside the EU. The new role was announced at the Vatican on the occasion of the award of the Charlemagne Prize to Pope Francis.
“Freedom of religion is a principle inherent to the foundation of the European Union,” Juncker. “The persistent persecution of religious and ethnic minorities makes protecting and promoting this freedom inside and outside the EU all the more essential.”
Sophia Kuby, director of EU Advocacy for Alliance Defending Freedom International, welcomed the establishment of the EU special envoy for the promotion of freedom of religion. She congratulated Ján Figel on his appointment saying “We are confident that this new envoy position will give a voice to the voiceless and start a new chapter in which the EU takes its human rights obligations more seriously.”
“Anti-conversion laws, blasphemy laws, and other legal restrictions lead to social exclusion and even physical persecution today,” said Kuby. “An increasing number of people are not free to live out their faith according to their conscience. With the growing persecution of religious minorities throughout the world, the European Union must act beyond political statements and resolutions.”
The establishment of the special envoy comes at a time when freedom of conscience, religion, and belief are coming under increasing attack and have attracted considerable attention from the media. Recently, members of the European Parliament from four political groups signed a declaration which cited concern over an increasing deterioration of the fundamental right to freedom of conscience and stressed the importance of strengthening this right throughout Europe and the world. They called on the European Union and its member states to comply with their legal obligations and ensure “robust protection of freedom of conscience.”