Friday, January 30, 2015

Report on "Tackling intolerance and discrimination in Europe with a special focus on Christians" overwhelmingly adopted in the Council of Europe

Reasonable accommodation for Christians in the work place is needed in Europe.

On the 29th of January, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) accepted with a large majority (67 against 2) the Valeriu Ghiletchi’s resolution  on “Tackling intolerance and discrimination in Europe with a special focus on Christians.” 

The resolution (and it's explanatory report) stresses the intolerance and discrimination on grounds of religion or belief towards minority religious groups in Europe and people belonging to a major religious group. The report states that “Numerous acts of hostility, violence and vandalism have been recorded in recent years against Christians and their places of worship, but these acts are often overlooked by the national authorities.” 

The report also warned about the discrimination in the work place and called for the promotion for reasonable accommodation and to find solutions to respect the freedom of conscience for Christians in the work place. In the report examples are mentioned where reasonable accommodation is not respected. Strong words condemned the Dutch lifting of the exceptions for registrars not to conduct same-sex marriage because of their conscience beliefs. Especially, because the exception did not cause any practical problems and because same-sex marriage can be conducted everywhere in the Netherlands. This is called “a symbolic attack against the more traditional Christian minority ” and “This constitutes a step backward compared to the tradition of pragmatic tolerance which previously prevailed in the Netherlands.”  

It calls to respect the right of parents to provide their children and education in conformity with their religious or philosophical convictions, to enable Christians to fully participate to public life, and to avoid media stereotyping for Christians.


It is interesting that the leaders of all the political groups within the Council of Europe showed their support for the resolution and report. Only the speaker for the UEL, Tiny Kox tried to justify the Dutch legislation that lifts the exception for conscience objected registrars to perform same-sex marriage. Tiny Kox said that this is in the Dutch law and therefore not seen by the Dutch society as an act of intolerance against Christians. Kox’s views were firmly rejected by United Kingdom representative, Lord Donald Anderson, who said that common sense should prevail ad not be limited by law, and that he is therefore glad that the British law contains such an exception. There was general agreement for the call to respect reasonable accommodation. Jonas Gunnarsson (Sweden, on behalf of the socialist groups) stated that, reasonable accommodation could be used, among others, as a tool to accommodate people without physical disabilities.


All the other parliamentary groups supported the report. Pozzo di Borgo (France, EPP/CD), Julia Kronlid (Sweden, MR), Sir Edward Leigh (United Kingdom, EC), Jaroslaw Sellin (Poland, EC), Doris Fiala (ALDE), Lord Donald Anderson (United Kingdom, SOC), Rózsa Hoffmann (Hungary, EPP/CD), Miller (Canada, observer), Elisabeth Schneider-Schneiter (Switzerland, EPP/CD), Angel Pintado (Spain, EPP/CD), Piotr Wach (Poland, EPP/CD), and many others agreed that the Intolerance against Christians is increasing and that propagation against Christian minorities should cease. Christians are the most persecuted religious community in the world, and there is a moral obligation to protect them. We should strengthen the fundamental basis for Europe which is solidarity, democracy and freedom.

Furthermore, it was emphasized that there is a need to promote respect and peaceful co-existence of the religions within the members of the Council of Europe and beyond. It was highlighted several times that because in Europe, the discrimination against Christians is more subtle, the church will bounce back. Therefore, the Council of Europe has a role in this matter and European countries should be an example to other countries.

Pavel Ungaryan (Ukraine) was very active during the debate. He recalled how his family and he personally, had suffered intolerance in the former Soviet Union because of their Baptist Evangelical faith. Another interesting intervention was made by Krysztof Szczerski (Poland, EC), who stated that even in Poland, we see many anti-Christian in media which are justified as acts of modernization.

The Committee on the Equality and Non-Discrimination and the Assembly rejected three amendments proposed. Two of the rejected amendments would distort the meaning of the report and approved three other amendments, which strengthened certain specific points of the resolution.

The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe approved the resolution with 67 votes against 2. The whole Assembly congratulated the Rapporteur Valeriu Giletchi for the excellent report.

The report, the resolution and the debate showed that there is a big concern about the growing intolerance and discrimination against Christians on the European Continent, even in cases when Christians are a majority group in many countries. I hope that this report will open further discussions and increase the tolerance of Christians in Europe especially protecting freedom of conscience in the work place and a European-wide respect of reasonable accommodation based on freedom of religion or belief.


Adopted resolution "Tackling Intolerance and Discrimination in Europe with a Special Focus on Christians"

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