Saturday, December 24, 2011

Personal Christmas and New Year's wish

Click on the picture to read my Christmas and New Year's Wish

ECPM and ECPYN take action towards the Belarusian Ambassadors

On 23 December, the ECPM and its youth association the ECPYN sent an open letter to the Belarusian ambassadors. Based on the latest developments, both organisations are very worried about the unexpected detentions of political activists that occurred this week. One year after the peaceful demonstrations, followed by extremely harsh measures by the Belarusian authorities, it looks like similar tactics are being used again by the Belarusian government to silence members of the opposition. The open letter is listed below

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Report about the 4th constituency congress of the Belarusian Christian Democrats

On Saturday, 17 December, the party Belarusian Christian Democracy (BCD) held its fourth Constituent Congress in Minsk. The congress gathered 108 delegated from all over Belarus and more than 350 guests, including heads and representatives of diplomatic missions from Great Britain, USA, Germany, Poland, Hungary, Slovakia and guests from Austria, Hungary, Ukrain and Russia. Pavel Sieviarynets, the BCD co-chairman, accused to three years of labour camp, regretfully, could not be present at the Congress and the president Vital Rymasheuski was detained shortly after the congress. Fortunately Vital was released after spending five hours at the police. The BCD therefore strongly requested to release and the rehabilitation of Pavel and the 13 other political prisoners: Ales Bialiatski, Andrei Sannikau, Dzimtry Bandarenka, Mikalai Statkevich, Dzmitry Dashkevich, Eduard Lobau, Mikalai Autukhovich, Yauhen Vaskovich, Ihar Alinevich, Aliaksandr Frantskevich, Mikalaj Dziadok, Artsiom Prakapenka and Pavel Syramalotau. 

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

My Christmas message during the Romanian Prayer Breakfast, in the Palace of Parliament 8 December 2011

On 8 December, the national Romanian Prayer Breakfast took place in the Palace of Parliament in Romania. This event was organized by the Senate, the Chamber of Deputies and the Ecumenical Prayer Group of the Romanian Parliament in collaboration with the ECPM. I was invited to share a Biblical message. Please find the text of my message here

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Leo van Doesburg, ECPM Representative in Eastern Europe, receives Award for Freedom of Religion and Conscience

The second Conscience and Freedom Award Gala took place in Timisoara, Romania, on the 3rd of December 2011. The event is organized by the Conscience and Freedom Association in collaboration with the Parliamentary Committee on Human Rights, Religious Affairs and National Minorities, and aims to honor individuals who have espoused, established, defended and promoted the cause of freedom of religion and conscience throughout Romania. Recipients of the Conscience and Freedom Award include politicians, academics, activists, writers, religious leaders, diplomats, scholars and other individuals with inspiring stories, who were involved in defending and promoting religious freedom and conscience through their activities, writings, legislative initiatives or acts of courage. 

Monday, December 5, 2011

UN International Court of Justice rules against Greece in Macedonia case

The world court ruled Monday that Greece was wrong to block Macedonia's bid to join NATO in 2008 because of a long-running dispute over the fledgling country's use of the name Macedonia. you can download the judgement and the summary of the judgement here. You can find more information below

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Elections in Croatia 4 December: HRAST focuses on a healthy economic program, respect for family and human dignity

Tomorrow, 4 December, parliamentarian elections will take place in Croatia. I have been several times in Croatia. The country faced quite a turbulence in their political situation. The corruption, difficult economic situation and also the accession to the European Union caused a lot of uncertainties for the people of Croatia (also shown by many demonstrations this year). This resulted in a decrease of trust in their leaders and parliament. However. I was very impressed by the new political party HRAST. This party is focused on basic Christian Democratic values and finds basic values like human dignity (protection for life from conception until natural death) and family values of main importance. However, this does not mean that they neglect other important areas. In October they organized an important conference about "Croatian economic perspectives" where the situation of the Croatian economy and the economic program of HRAST was discussed. Together with Dutch Christian Union senator and expert Peter Ester I participated to this event

Please find the report of this meeting made by HRAST representative Slavko Vukmanov below. 

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

No EU Funding on Research with Embryos and Embryonic Stem Cells

Brussels - Today MEPs from different political groups and different countries urged the European Commission not to finance research with embryos and embryonic stem cells under the new research framework program Horizon 2020. On November 30, the European Commission will present its proposal for the next research and innovation programme Horizon 2020. In the context of the EU research policy, research which includes human embryos and embryonic stem cells has always been a controversial issue.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Large response for the conference: "Beyond individualism" that will take place in London 25-26 November 2011. If you want to participate, register now!

Some time ago, I announced this conference about "Beyond individualism: why Civil Society needs Christian Political Engagement" that will take place on Friday 25 & Saturday 26 November in London, United Kingdom. I received good news from the ECPM office. New speakers have been added recently to the packed program. Many speakers from several political organisations and different denominational backgrounds will contribute to the colloquium & conference, making Beyond Individualism the Christian political event of the year in Britain! Also there is a large response! More than 130 attendants already have registered for this conference. So if you want to participate too, please register soon!! Places are becoming scare so we urge you to book as soon as possible on the Beyond Individualism website. I will of course also be there, so maybe see you in London?? 

More information about the speakers see also below

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Romanian Prayer Breakfast 7-9 December 2011 about "Church and State"

On 7-9 December, the Senate, the Chamber of Deputies and the Ecumenical Prayer group from the Romanian Parliament will organize in collaboration with the European Christian Political Movement (ECPM) the 6th Romanian Prayer Breakfast in the Palace of Parliament in Bucharest. The Romanian Prayer Breakfast will be followed by a debate on the theme: "Church and State".

If you need more information, please send me an email to:

Participation to the Prayer Breakfast has to be confirmed only after registration and reviewing by the organizers. 

Please find more information below

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Conference about “the active and positive role of Minorities in Serbia-Voivodina in the Serbian EU integration process

On 29 October, ECPM organized an important event in the Festive Room of the Vrsac City Hall in Voivodina (Serbia) together with the Alliance of Romanians in Voivodina and the National Council of the Romanian Minorities in Voivodina. Representatives of different communities that are living in the Voivodina province came together to discuss about ways for collaboration with each other and with the central government in order to promote the accession of Serbia into the European Union. The conference was attended by members of National Councils and representatives from the Croatian, Hungarian, Macedonian, Romanian, Rusynean, and Slovak communities in Voivodina, Besides the meeting was attended by the Provincial Secretary of Voivodina for Education, Self-Government and National Communities, A deputy from the parliament of Voivodina, vice President of the Vrsac community, and the local executive (and member of the community council of Vrsac) for minorities and religious affairs.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

My message at the conference on the Positive-Active Role of Vojvodina-Serbian Minorities in the Serbian EU Integration Process”, in Vrsac (Serbia), on 29th October 2011

First of all I would like to say that I am honored and it is a pleasure to be at this important conference about “The positive-active role of Vojvodina-Serbian minorities in the Serbian EU integration process”.  It is great that the conference is taking place in the beautiful city of the “little top”, in Vrsac. The chosen theme is a very important and relevant one. Therefore let's split the title “The positive-active role of Vojvodina Serbian minorities in the Serbian EU integration process” in three parts, followed by a conclusion with some recommendations.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

The Association of Christian Democrats in Eastern Europe shows their concern about the situation in Belarus

The Association of Christian Democrats in Europe (existing of the Christian Democratic People’s Party from Moldova, Christian Democratic Union of Armenia, Christian Democratic Union of Latvia, Christian Democratic Union of Ukraine, Christian Democratic Movement of Georgia, Christian Public Movement "Благодатная Россия", Christian Democratic Party of Belarus) expressed their concerns about the situation in Belarus in a joined declaration on their meeting on 22 October in Chisinau. Vladimir Plamadeala, board member of the ECPM participated to this meeting.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Will the Council of Europe impose a new definition of family, parents and children?

Controversial debates on the drafting of the “Recommendation on the Rights and Legal Status of Children and Parental Responsibilities”.

(Source: Gregor Puppinck, PhD, Director of the ECLJ, European Center for Law and Justice)
Between the 12th and the 14th of October 2011, the European Committee on Legal Co-operation (CDCJ) of the Council of Europe discussed a Draft Recommendation by the Committee of Ministers on the Rights and Legal Status of Children and Parental Responsibilities (see below the link to the document).. The first draft recommendation was drawn up by the Committee of Experts on Family Law (CJ-FA), and was adopted on the 27th May 2011, under the supervision of British scholar Nigel Lowe.  The text, as amended by the European Committee on Legal Co-operation (CDCJ), will be submitted, probably in the second half of November, to the Committee of Ministers for its further consideration and discussion, potentially on some new amendments, followed by its definitive adoption. At the CDCJ, a strong debate has divided States regarding the natural and moral foundations of the family.  
The recommendation aims to define a number of new common principles “updating” European Family Law to the social and scientific changes that have occurred in the past decades in parts of Europe in relation to family and procreation. The recommendation especially focuses on the establishment of affiliation in the context of unmarried couples and medically assisted procreation, for both different and same-sex couples. 

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Victory for Human Dignity: protection of the human embryo in judgment of the Grand Chamber of the European Court of Justice

(Source: European Dignity Watch)
On October 18, 2011, the Grand Chamber of the European Court of Justice has released its judgment in the human patentability case that was pending now for several years.
The Court states that “any human ovum after fertilisation, any non-fertilised human ovum into which the cell nucleus from a mature human cell has been transplanted, and any non-fertilised human ovum whose division and further development have been stimulated by parthenogenesis constitute a ‘human embryo’ This is a great victory for the protection of human dignity in Europe!!!

Friday, October 7, 2011

Good Morning Ukraine (Part 2): Human Dignity central in the Forum for Christian politicians

On my first day in Kiev I participated in the first Ukrainian Prayer Breakfast organized by the Christian Democratic Union of Ukraine. It was in the early morning when the city was still covered in fog. The day started with a wonderful prayer breakfast and the program was very well thought. I believe prayer and fellowship is the best way to start!

The second day aimed to go even deeper into the way Christian values can be implemented better in the political field. The party therefore organized a special forum for Christian politicians with the theme “Christian values in a globalized world.”

Thursday, October 6, 2011

New Expert Document: No Right To Abortion Under International Law

San Jose Articles launched today at UN headquarters in New York

A new document launched today in New York clarifies once and for all that there is no right to abortion under current international law. The so-called ‘San Jose Articles’ contains nine articles which summarise the position of internationally binding treaties and customary law regarding abortion, drawing the conclusion that a right to abortion does not exist. Sovereign states, therefore, have no international obligation whatsoever to provide their citizens with access to abortion. 

This holds true even for the frequent claim that access to abortion should be provided for health, privacy, sexual autonomy or non-discrimination reasons. 

Monday, October 3, 2011

Good morning Ukraine (part 1)

It was early morning on 21 September 2011. The hills of Dnipro stand as a symbol of the historical and cultural heritage of Ukraine, while offering a beautiful view of the city of Kiev. Although the sun has already risen, the city is still covered in fog that is slowly disappearing: it looks like Kiev is waking up. An historic event is taking place: the first Ukrainian National Prayer Breakfast and a forum of Christian politicians on “Christian values in a globalized world” are organized today. Are the hills and the waking up of the city not the best symbols you can give to these events? Will there be a waking up of politicians, representatives of religious institutions and churches, NGOs and institutions for a stronger collaboration in order to promote Christian values in the Ukraine? These were questions that occupied my mind when I stood on the hill, watching the city. The fog was soon disappearing.

Friday, September 30, 2011

My message at the Ukrainian Prayer Breakfast

Your Excellencies, 
Your Eminences, 
Distinguished participants, 
Dear friends,

It is wonderful to see how we all, from different backgrounds and in different languages, are praying the Lord’s Prayer together:  the prayer that unites all Christians from all different denominations and from all different countries and cultures all over the world. It is thus not a coincidence that the prayer starts with the expression “Our Father”. However, the word “our” is at first surprising, as I would expect the Lord’s prayer to start with the expression “My Father”, since I am used to pray for my health, my work etc.  Nevertheless, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ taught us to pray using the words “give US our daily bread”, “lead US not into temptation” and so on. I think this has to do with the fact that Jesus wanted to teach us to look not only to the Father, but also to those around us! 

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Stop torture of Dzmitry Dashkevich!

On 27 September 2011 the Belarusian Christian Democracy Party together with theYoung Front” and theYoung Belarus” issued a joint statement demanding to end torture of the Dzmirty Dashkevich, the “Young Front” leader and member of the BCD. This statement is signed by the co-chairmen of the Belarusian Christian Democrats, deputy chairman "Young Front" and the chairman of the "Young Belarus" movement

Stop torture of Dzmitry Dashkevich!
The leader of the "Young Front", Dzmitry Dashkevich, is kept in inhumane conditions in prison. The pressure, which was exerted on him since the illegal arrest of 18 December 2010, has now turned to open torture. He is deprived of sleep and food and experiences constant psychological assault.

The health and life of the young political leader and sincere Christian is in serious danger.

We demand to end to torture of Dzmitry Dashkevich! We demand the immediate release of all political prisoners and their full rehabilitation!


Thursday, September 15, 2011

ECPM publication online: Freedom of Faith & Conscience

Dear friends,

I am happy to inform you that you can now find the ECPM publication: Freedom of faith and conscience online. You can turn the pages by clicking on it. This publication was made based on the results of the ECPM annual congress held in the Palace of Parliament in Bucharest, 23-25 June 2011. The congress was organized by the ECPM in collaboration with the Chamber of Deputies, the Senate and the Ecumenical Prayer Group of the Romanian Parliament. After the conference I collected articles from 15 authors from all over Europe, to highlight different views of this primordial topic.

The online publication is in eBook format. You can just click on the publication and when the second window opens you can turn the pages by clicking on the arrow.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

OSCE Parliamentary Assembly Urges States to Combat Intolerance and Discrimination Against Christians in the West

The parliamentary assembly of the OSCE recommends that a "public debate on intolerance and discrimination against Christians be initiated and that the right of Christians to participate fully in public life be ensured" (12); that, "in view of discrimination and intolerance against Christians, that legislation in the participating States, including labour law, equality law, laws on freedom of expression and assembly, and laws related to religious communities and right of conscientious objection be assessed" (13); and "encourages the media not to spread prejudices against Christians and to combat negative stereotyping" (15); and "encourages Christian churches to continue their participation in public life contributing to the defence of the dignity of all human beings and to freedom and social cohesion" (16). 


Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Romania becoming magnet for divorce tourism


An increasing number of foreign couples are visiting Romania to get divorced more quickly than would be possible in their normal country of residence. In some countries, onerous legal requirements, coupled with bureaucracy, mean it can take several years to get a divorce. 

In Romania, a divorce can be finalised within one month. A recent article in the New York Times shed light on this phenomenon when it told the story of an Italian couple who had established a short-term residence in Romania only to get divorced more quickly than would be possible in Italy. In Romania, a couple without children who are seeking a divorce, must sign a divorce form in front of a notary. The two then have 30 days to withdraw the divorce request and after that, if the divorce is consensual, a notary can end the marriage. Previously, couples had to go to court to get divorced. Law firms abroad have taken advantage of this and started to offer the service to foreign nationals, according to the New York Times.

Arranging a divorce in Italy is a long-term affair. Spouses must have been separated for a minimum of three years. After factoring in legal processes, the divorce can take up to four years. Meanwhile, if the split is not consensual, it can easily take 10.

“Spain, France and Britain are also divorce destinations, but Romania is known as cheaper and easier,” the New York Times reported.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Freedoms of Religion & Conscience under serious threat in Moldova

By Leo van Doesburg & Anca Bulica

The Moldovan Ministry of Justice proposed a new law to prevent and to fight against discrimination. The purpose of the proposed law was to create an instrument that allows the prevention of any kind of discrimination on Moldovan territory and to bring all the provisions together under one piece of legislation.  However, because of the confusion at the Ministry of Justice about the goal of the new legislation, the proposed law became very controversial and it raised serious concerns about the freedom of faith and conscience. Nevertheless, active neo-liberal EU lobbyists and diplomats stated that this was the only way for the lifting of the visa barriers. Unjustified pressure from some official EU diplomats combined with a confused Ministry of Justice seemed to form the basis for a controversial law that brings fundamental freedoms in Moldova in serious danger. 

This article that I wrote together with Anca Bulica (policy officer Care for Europe) gives a deep analysis about the situation in Moldova and will be published in a special ECPM publication about "the freedom of faith and conscience" in the beginning of August.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Controversial Secularist's Meeting at The European Parliament: "Open As Long As You Agree?"

At a meeting of the European Parliament Platform for Secularism in Politics (EPPSP) on 29 June 2011, there was an unexpected and controversial debate on the role of secularism and religion within the public sphere, where strong views were expressed on both sides. The debate centered on Article 17 of the Lisbon Treaty which commits the European Union (EU) to an open and transparent dialogue with churches and religious associations/ communities in Member States and whether it is right to enshrine such a commitment in the Treaty.

(Source European Dignity Watch: 

Friday, June 10, 2011

Hungarian Constitution - justified criticism or political attack?

(Source: Human Dignity Watch), June 10, 2011
A European Parliament debate on new Fundamental Hungarian Law (constitution) of 18 April 2011 took place on June 8 2011. The new Fundemental Law was adopted by an overwhelming majority of 262 votes to 44 votes (plus one abstention).It shall come into force on 1January 2012.For several weeks, the Hungarian constitution was violently criticised and it seems necessary to analyse the debate to distinguish between objective criticism, political attacks against this law, protecting values in the European tradition. The debate around Hungarian Fundamental Basic Law, the latter recalling the importance of human dignity,protection of life and family, based on marriage between a man and a woman shows that - apart from a few legally debatalbe points- part of the political class in Brussels does not want to hear about these values and fight hard against them.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Slovenia part 2 (of 2): about lobby groups, undemocratic means, interference in internal politics and the beautiful surroundings

The second day we had a meeting with the civic initiative committee. It was encouraging for me to speak with two of their representatives. Pressed by (mostly West-European) lobby groups, the government wants to change the family laws in order to allow same-sex marriages. That this is against the will of the majority of the Slovenian population (as the polls show us), does not matter too much for the government. Unfortunately, this trend you see in many European countries nowadays.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Slovenia Part 1(of 2): Post-card scenes and empty places

After the trainings in Croatia we drove further to Slovenia. There we were going to meet representatives of the civic initiation committee to look if there is a possible way to collaborate together to promote basic Christian family values in Slovenia.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Croatia: About delay, trainings, EU, and discussions

As a following up of the Balkan trip Auke Minnema and me went to Croatia to train the people of the initiative group there. After this we plan to go to Slovenia, the country we unfortunately could not visit the last time during our Balkantrip.

Kyrgyzstan part II (final): about society, cowboys and timezones

The second day, our new friends showed me the capital Bishkek. A quite Asian-Soviet-European city with many parks. In front of the parliament a monument reminds us about the victims of the last year's war. After this, I gave the second part of the course. The course was nearly finished or I was brought to a group
existing of Representatives of Christian NGOs and Christian journalists.

Kyrgyzstan part I: A special guest and common values

After I visited Russia, I visited the republic Kyrgyzstan. Many probably remember the country from the bloody conflict with the Uzbecs shortly after a sort of revolution made an end of a dictatorial regime. I was asked to give a training about the basics of Christian Democracy to the leadership of a new party called "7 April" (referring to their revolution last year) and to an informal group with Christian representatives of NGOs and journalists.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

ECPM attacked by the European Humanist Federation

As a reaction on the Green Paper of the European Commission concerning the automatic recognition of civil status documents (see the article on "Will the EU define marriage"), the European Humanist Federation did not comment to the questions asked by the Commission. Instead, the Federation is attacking the ECPM, CARE, Human Dignity Watch, the World Youth Alliance, and Salt and Light. Calling us: "efficiently organised and well financed but unrepresentative minority religious pressure groups whose aim appears to be to stifle the initiative at birth." And further: "It is our opinion that they are not representative even of most Christians in Europe." Their reaction on the green paper you find here

Monday, May 16, 2011

Pavel Sievarynets was sentenced 3 years of forced labour camp

BCD leader Pavel Sieviarynets was sentenced to 3 years of forced labour camp; he was set free in the court. Iryna Khalip and Siarhej Martseleu, who were judged together with Pavel, received 2 years of imprisonment with arrest of judgement for 2 years. Relatives and friends, including supporters of the BCD, which came into court with flowers, could meet and embrace Paul's right in the courthouse.

In his first interview after his release Pavel Sieviarynets said he did not recognize the sentence as fair. He will fight for the liberation of other political prisoners, in particular already today he is going to visit a number of courts. When asked about tortures Pavel confessed that for him personally the most severe torture was spiritual when he was not allowed to attend church and meet with a priest.

Now within three days Sieviarynets needs to return to the place of his residence in Vitebsk and wait for the transfer to a labour camp. After liberation Pavel immediately went to the St. Peter and Paul Cathedral in Minsk. In the KGB prison he asked for a meeting with a priest more than 10 times. Pavel Sieviarynets was accused of organizing and active participating activities that breach public order (Part 1 of Article 342 of the Criminal Code).He was arrested on 20 December 2011 directly after the presidential elections and since then he was kept in the KGB prison in Minsk.

Another BCD co-chairman and ex-presidential candidate, Vital Rymasheuski, is still undergoing court trial procedures. He is also being tried under the Article 342 of the Criminal Code.

The Belarusian Christian Democracy implemented a successful presidential campaign in 2010. According to the data of the Independent Institute of Socio-Economic and Political Studies (IISEPS, 3,7 % of the Belarusian population voted for the BCD presidential candidate, Vital Rymasheuski. Vladimir Niakliaeu got 8,3 % of the voters according to IISEPS; he was followed by Andrei Sannikov with 6.1% of votes. Yaroslav Romanchuk got 3.2% and Ales Michalevic - 2.7%. Nikolai Statkevich, according to the poll, got 1.7% of the votes, Ryhor Kastusiou - 1.6%, Viktor Tereshchenko - 0.6%, Dmitri Uss - 0.5%. All Lukashenko's opponents gathered together 28.4% of the votes, while 5.1% of people voted against and 3.8% of the respondents refused to answer the question. Lukashenko himself got 51,1 % of votes according to the Institute.

In Minsk Vital Rymasheuski got 5.9% of votes according to the IISEPS; he is preceeded only by Yaroslav Romanchuk with 6.3%. Andrei Sannikov got in 5.9%, Niakliaeu - 4.9% and Statkevich 3%.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Ombudsman: Commission apologises for forgetting Easter and Christmas in school diary

The European Ombudsman, P. Nikiforos Diamandouros, has closed a case after the European Commission apologised for omitting Christian holidays in a school diary it had published for 2010/2011. This follows a complaint from an Irish priest who submitted that the diary did not mention Easter and Christmas, although it contained certain non-Christian holidays, such as the Jewish and Islamic New Years.

Irish priest complains about missing Christian holidays

Every year, the European Commission produces the Europa Diary for students in secondary schools in the EU. It serves as a tool for homework and other notes. The edition for the school year 2010/2011 was distributed to more than three million students.

In January 2011, an Irish priest complained to the Ombudsman that the Commission had omitted Christian holidays, such as Easter and Christmas, while including holidays of other religions in the diary. He claimed that the Commission should apologise for the error and recall the already distributed edition for 2010/2011.

In February 2011, the Ombudsman informed the complainant that the Commission had published an apology for what it called the regrettable error of omitting Christian holidays in the diary on its website. Furthermore, the Commission sent a corrigendum to all teachers who had ordered the 2010/2011 edition. It included a one-page addition to the diary showing the main public holidays of the EU Member States.

In the Ombudsman's view, the actions which the Commission took to rectify the error were reasonable. He further considered that it would be disproportionate to reprint the 2010/2011 edition. Accordingly, the Ombudsman closed the case without further inquiries.

The Ombudsman's complete decision is available at:

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Russian trip part V (final): Goodbye Moscow

After a bit longer sleep than the days before I had an interesting discussion with two representatives working in the parliament. We discussed about the ways for collaboration. It was a long but constructive and friendly discussion. Many opinions about the current political situation were shared. It will be an interesting time because both Putin and Medvedev will probably candidate for the next year's presidential elections.

They suggested to organize a conference in the Russian Parliament, an interparliamentarian conference to discuss human dignity within the Russian context. If there is central approval, they would like to organise this in collaboration with the ECPM.

In the afternoon I had a meeting with the majority of members of the newly formed movement. First they discussed the working name of the movement. This discussion was led by Ekaterina. The working name became "Christian Civic Movement". After this I explained shortly the already famous "hour glass modell", a scheme which explains how to start a movement or a party. I explained that you have to develop first a vision document based on the Gospel and a vision on state & government, followed by a program, positions etc. After this they made a list of responsibilities for each member of the initiation committee. It was not an easy meeting but it became fruitful. The target was that after the conclusion of the conference the movement started with a plan. The hour glass model helped them to structure their ideas.

The next day I went with one of the volunteers and coordinator for Russia for the Haggai institute to the Center of Moscow. To say goodbye to the famous red square and to drink a coffee in the famous shopping mall there. We went to see as well some underground stations that were really like small museums. I can recommend everyone to go and see these wonderful underground stations.

Above the ground there was a cold wind and it was snowing again. I saw this as a sign that although an impressive beginning has made, the reality of each day in Russia is still hard. We must put all the shoulders together under the wheel to realise our vision: a new spring in this country with so many people that suffered already for too long....

I took the night plane to a whole other destination: Kyrgyzstan, the last destination for this journey.

Russian trip part IV: "This is not enthusiasm, this is hope"

The conference would start today later in the afternoon. Therefore I had time to go with Henkjan van Schothorst (Roel Kuiper left home already) to visit the Red Square. It remains a powerful square with the red building of the historical museum and the St Basil cathedral. We visited the cathedral and saw the nice interior and a few of the Red Square. While Henkjan went back to the hotel to pick up some things, I visited the church service in the cathedral. After that I went to the conference.

The first greeting was from the vice president of the 'Center for Slavic Culture and Literature' where the three days' event was hosted. This was followed by a Christian entrepreneur who explained that though there were many pressures, he tried to remain integer. He called the business people up not to be involved in corruption but to form a kind of Christian business club (he called it a parallel economy) where businesses were committed together to remain clean. His speech was followed by a councillor of a community in Russia. He explained the pressure that many business people face. He was not only mentioning about the obligations to pay not only high "taxes" back to the government, but also that because of false corrupt judges many honest business people were falsely accused and end up in prison. His list and his fights against a corrupted regime shocked also the participants.

After this the conclusions were drawn of the conference. There was a general agreement that a movement should be started based on the values of the former Christian Democratic Union of Russia. Many proposals were shared about how this should look like. After the discussions, people could propose others to participate in an initiation committee. The initiation committee of the conference (five people) was extended to 14 persons. Alexander Ogorodnikov took part as well and had an important role in the discussions, together with many others. The initiative committee for the movement which will be established exists now of all kinds of different people: journalists, philosophers, professors & scientists, students, politicians, dissidents, business people, lawyers, priests, pastors and so on. An important beginning was set.

In the evening a closing cocktail took place. Henkjan and I gave some Dutch presents to the organising committee and the volunteers. The Swedish buffet was received well. A businessman took care for good wine, the catering was well and a bucket of red caviar was quite finished in the end of the evening. The reactions of the participants were very enthusiastic.

"This is not enthusiasm, but this is hope" explained Ekaterina me. Another participant told me that since the '90s he cannot remember this sphere of friendship and hope for the future. It was special to have such a group from all layers of the society and of different religions together: eating, praying and discussing together how the Russian society can be changed and build on Christian Social values and based on Human Dignity. "We are too long treated as objects" said some participant to me, "it would be time to go back to our base of human dignity as it is written in the Holy Scripture". Special was also the gratitude given to Ekaterina, "the mother of the movement", who built the bridges and created the unity in the team.

This was an impressive end of the conference. Henkjan would leave in the morning. I still will have the next day with the representatives of the parliament and the initiation committee to look how we could serve the initiatives further.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Personal message for Easter

"For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him. shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him" (John 3:16,17)

Dear Friends

Easter is for me always a time also of self-reflection. This first thing that comes in my mind is Gods Love. This great love that God has for us is humanly speaking very hard to understand. He sent His Son to the earth. There He suffered, He was humiliated, tortured and finally killed. Finally Jesus was left alone by everyone: by His friends, by the people of Israel (whom He loved so much) and even by God His Father Himself! Carrying His Cross through the streets of Jerusalem. The cursed wood that would bring Him to death. If I see to this love of God, I wonder myself: "What is man that you are mindful of him; the son of man that you care for him" (Psalm 8:4), Because, who are we? Who are these sons of man? The mankind who exist of small, proud, unthankful and also evil people. We do not destroy only Gods Creation, but also ourselves and our fellow "sons of man" because of selfish motivation and captured by evil whose only motivation is to hurt and bring sufferings to others

However, God loves us, wants to save us and offer us a new beginning: a relationship that goes beyond the death. He wants to give us a future and eternal perspective! If I see this solidarity, then I think, that the world would be much better if we value the people around us as God did. I wish that the message of Easter will motivate us to have also feel the solidarity for the people around us. Jesus did not die only for the or for the poor, not only for white or colored people, nor only for female or male. Jesus message is the same for everyone! That is the real meaning of human dignity!

I will pray that the Easter message of solidarity and compassion will reflect in our own lives: based on the love for God and for the people around us. I hope therefore that the day of Good Friday, the day of Jesus' sufferings, will bring us to humbleness and will lead us to bow our knees, to look honestly to ourselves, and to pray to our heavenly God for forgiveness and salvation. In this way we are able to lift our cross together with Jesus and to leave our burden behind us so that we will see the Light of Resurrection Day. Jesus is not death, but He is alive and He should live further in our hearts!

With all my heart I wish you all a blessed, joyful and inspiring Easter!

Leo van Doesburg

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Russian trip part III: Papa Leo

The second day of the conference started with a lecture from Dutch Senator Roel Kuiper. He spoke about the important fact that Christians historically are wise focused on creating communities. The new movement that will be started is an example of this. He also mentioned that the main founders of the Christian social thinking can be laid by Pope Leo XIII and Abraham Kuyper.

Interesting was that here in Moscow also a Leo and a Kuiper explained the basics of Christian Democracy. Christians always have been focused on the creation of communities and he wondered if the societies have become not too much based on contracts and less on covenants. The difference between a contract and a covenant is that the latter is focused on an agreement and a commitment for a longer sustainable time. Contracts are business like, short time oriented. In his eyes, moral capital is more important than social capital. Christian justice should be therefore be based on "shalom" and "cheset": justice but also taken the person into consideration!

During his speech, the translator made a hilarious mistake when Roel referred to my speech the day before saying: "Leo explained about..." which was translated with "pope Leo explained". Since then many people have called me ... "Papa Leo" ....

Not long after the speech of Roel Kuiper, Henkjan van Schorthorst (from the Dutch Reformed Party (SGP)) gave a clear explanation about how the European Union (dis)functions and why Christians were called to enter the European politics.

After the break opinions concerning politics were shared. There was even a speaker explaining recovering a monarchy based on Romanov blood. However the participants were not very agreeing with him and this let to some argumentations. After this an emotional discussion about the state of Russian democracy took place. There was a lot of dissatisfaction concerning the current regime and people spoke freely about this. One person was afraid that a new revolution will take place if nothing will be done by the civil society. The spirit of revolution is in Russian air, because people have reached their limit of tolerance toward corruption and social injustice; and there is not any publicity instrument availabel for people would share their concerns. It is the task of the new movement to unite peaceful and democratic forces in order to change the society in a positive way.

Alexander Ogorodnikov told about the Christian Democratic Movement in the 90's and the challenges and depressions they faced. An emotional discussion took place about the reasons why this movement finally failed and the absence of a clear support of the orthodox church for the movement. Others said that the failure was due to the fact that it was not the right time, the movement was too much focused on relations with the West and leas to the situation of the country and a lack of experience. However all the participants were agreeing that now the timing is much better and that this new initiative is carried much broader.

In the evening Henkjan, Ekaterina and me were invited for dinner from the patriarchate. Also Father Nicholas was present.

The first day was about society, the second day about politics, tomorrow it will be about Christian business and the conclusions of the conference will be drafted.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Russian trip part II: About a shared vision

The next day, after we picked up Roel Kuiper from the hotel, we went to the place where the conference will start: the Orthodox center for Slavic languages. After the openings prayer of Father Nicholas, advisor for external affairs and the opening of Ekaterina, I was asked to give the opening lecture. The subject I chose was human dignity as base for the Christian Social thinking. I told about different views on dignity in history and talked about the catholic and Protestant view on Human Dignity and the universal declaration on human dignity recognizing that we are created in the image and likeness of God from the conception till the natural death as base for legal charters and legislation (even as base for the universal declaration for human rights) and motivate the participants to promote the principles also in Russia.

Although I thought that the lecture I gave might be long and somehow heavy in the morning, the reactions were enormous encouraging. Father Nicholai said that he was very encouraged about the things that have been said and that it was for him very good because it was also the direction the Russian orthodox church wanted to follow. "What you have said will have much more impact you will think and you will see the fruits" he added. Besides him someone said that he was encouraged that the Christian ideas I shared were so fitting with the Russian culture that this should be a base of a renewed friendship between Russia and Western Europe, because it is focused on ideas of the old Europe of some centuries ago, when these Christian values were the base of friendships amongst countries. Many people came to offer me books and the advisor of the chairman of the Senate of the Russian State Duma explained me that he would like to be in touch with me to look how these principles could be implemented in the Duma.

In the afternoon we went to the Russian State Duma where we met Father Nicholas, representatives of the 'United Russia' party and two representatives of the Parliament. The delegation from our side existed of senator Roel Kuiper (ChristianUnion, NL), Henk Jan van Schorthorst(Dutch Reformed Party (SGP), NL), Ekaterina and me. We had a good and constructive discussion about possibilities to promote values of human dignity in the State Duma and they were open for the idea to start a Human dignity group within the Russian Parliament. They were also interested in sharing information about how to deal with challenges of a multicultural society with different religions (relation between Muslims and Christians in some areas of Russia). A following up with the representatives of United Russia was planned to discuss concrete plans.

This meeting was followed by a lunch in the Parliament. After the lunch I had a meeting with another Member of Parliament who is member of the foreign affairs committee and member of the Parliamentarian Assembly of the Council of Europe. As a promoter for Christian values within this Council, we discussed about ways how Russia could play a role in protecting the traditional values in Europe. It was a constructive and good meeting.

Then we went back to the Orthodox Center for Slavic culture and languages where the conference was continuing in the mean time. It was good to see and speak with Alexander Ogorodnikov who is already an old friend of mine and we updated each other about our activities. He was a Russian dissident in Soviet times and was one of the founders of the Christian Democratic movement that existed in the 1990s. We talked as well about the fact that we already discussed for times about restarting such a movement, and that it seemed to be the moment now.

In the evening a nice dinner banquet was prepared for the most important guests. Many toasts were given. Roel Kuiper gave an inspiring toast and I gave the final toast about the importance to follow Jesus footsteps as Christian in the society where not power but impact is most important. It was interesting that although people came from different areas (mostly from Moscow and St Petersburg) and from different church background (protestant, orthodox), everyone found himself connected in this vision.