Saturday, June 11, 2016

Large international gathering to unite for Christian values and Ukraine

More than 550 participants joined the "international forum on Cooperation of politicans and civil society to protect Christian values”
Last week, After the 5th Ukrainian Prayer Breakfast, around 550 politicians, representatives of NGOs, and churches gathered together around the international forum on the "Cooperation of Politicians and Civil Society in the Promotion of Christian Values on the International Arena". The forum was organised by ECPM and the factional Parliamentary Group "for spirituality, morality and health for the Ukraine". Distinguished speakers and experts from all over the world, as well as local contributors discussed on the issue of the Promotion of Christian Values and the ways the collaboration between decision makers, academics and civil society can become more effective. On the final day of the conference, participants signed the "Declaration on the Establishment of a "European Christian Coalition". 


Forum on the "Cooperation of Politicians and Civil Society in the Promotion of Christian Values on the International Arena"


 The Forum consisted of speeches, panels, as well as a round of parallel workshops. MP Pavel Unguryan (the main organizer of the event) opened the forum thanking the ECPM for their collaboration and support and highlighted the aim of the forum: how to promote Christian values and how to develop international collaboration between politicians and civil society.

Leo van Doesburg, ECPM director for European Affairs,  welcomed the participants and international guests by underlining my strongly held belief that there can be no future for Europe without Christian values, citing the example of the founding fathers of the EU (Schuman, Adenauer, De Gasperi) and the values they instilled in the European project. He also remarked that Central and Eastern European countries are faced with pressures to enact legislation that can act against their Christian values of the definition of marriage and family and the protection of life and dignity. For this reason, this conference was a very good opportunity to find ways to strengthen the collaboration between politicians and civil society to give suitable answers to this by our experts. For this reason, this conference was a very good opportunity to find ways to strengthen the collaboration between politicians and civil society.

The first session's theme was the "Protection of Christian Values within the context of the Western Cultural revolution" dealing with the challenges of communicating and debating Christian values in different areas as well as with challenges and threats pertaining to family policy.

Marguerite Peeters (Founder of the Instute of Intercultural Dialogue Dynamics) opened this session and talked about the new "secularist ethic" that spread since the end of the Cold War. This ethic is the fruit of western, feminist, sexual and cultural revolution, a "global consensus" that led to the adoption of a global governance agenda. She also underlined the role Central and Eastern European countries can play in countering these pressures, since their experiences with totalitarianism and communism have strengthened their discernment.                   

Additionally, Luca Volontè (Honorary President of EPP in PACE, President of EPP in PACE (2009-2013), Director of the "Nova Terrae Foundation") underlined the significance of the definition of marriage and urged participants not to waver against attacks.  Also he mentioned the recently launched European Citizens Initiative called: "Mum, Dad and Kids" stating the definition of family is not an EU competence, but that the only institution of famly which is recognized by all EU memberstates is the institution of marriage as a union between one man and one woman

In the panel Ellen Fantini (Director, Observatory on Intolerance and Discrimination Against Christians) discussed about the challenges the Christians faces in Europe. Bill Hightower, senator of Alabama, who explained how a referendum where 80% of the population voted for the definition of marriage between one man and one woman was rejected by judges just with one vote difference.

In a panel, Inga Bite (Member ECPM and MP of the Latvian Parliament) referred to the accusation made against many Christian politicians in Eastern Europe; that when they defend family values they are supporting Vladimir Putin, just because Putin introduces legislation that supposedly also wants to protect family values. She denied this false allegation by saying that the protection of family values has nothing to do with Putin and his policies. If Putin goes to church, it does not mean that everyone that goes to church supports Putin

The second session dealt with the effective collaboration of politicians and civil society in the promotion of Christian values. In this session, Zeljka Markic (Founder, "In the name of Family" Association), shared important insight from her involvement with European Citizen Initiatives. In Croatia they mobilized 700,000 signatures to request for a referendum to define marriage in the constitution despite of severe media pressure.  hi (Member of the Moldovan Parliament), gave an update on developments in the Council of Europe, especially on recently adopted reports that protect Christian values. 

Additionally, Antoine Renard (President of the European Federation of Catholic Family Associations in Europe - FAFCE) spoke on the importance of the institution of Family and defended its definition as a union between on man and one woman for life.

In a second speech, Leo van Doesburg highlighted the importance of collaboration mentioning several examples from my own experience. He also called for the respect for our adversaries underlining that we need to understand their motivations. Many of them are influenced by a certain media propaganda. Therefore, we should always seek to have constructive debates and discussions with them.

 Paul Diamond (standing Counsel of the Christian Legal Centre), presented cases of discrimination against Christians across Europe and Jeffrey Donaldson (Member of the House of Commons, UK Parliament) urged Conference participants to stand for Christian values, presenting also many cases based on his wide-ranging experience. 

Marco Gombacci (Chief Editor, European Post) gave an interesting insight from his experience from the media. He noted that very often European Media are hesitant to report certain news (e.g.: on the persecution of Christians) simply because they think it is "not cool". He urged forum participants to stand against this attitude. 

In the third session, a panel on family policy was organised with many local and international speakers. From the international speakers, Antoine Mellado (Director of the European Division of World Youth Alliance) spoke about the diffuculties young people are facing because state institutions are trying to take the place of the family. "Family should be protected and nurtured, not substituted." He added that because state institutions are trying to take the place of the family. "family should be protected and nurtured, not substituted." 

Lorcán Price, ADF International, spoke both in the panel as in the workshop about the Challenges to the traditonal family posed by human rights law. He spoke about the court rulings on the recognition of homosexual relationships, the focus on LGBT rights by the Fundamental Rights Agency and media and politicl challenges faced by referenda on the definition of the family as were faced in Ireland. Nevertheless, family is a competence of the national member states and not the European Union. There is a freedom of countries from Central and Eastern Europe to define marriage as a union between one man and one woman. 


Declaration on the Establishment of the European Christian Coalition

On the final day of the Conference, a Declaration on the Establishment of the European Christian Coalition was mentioned. In this Declaration, the signatories proclaim their "committment to God's commandments and Christian Values" and reaffirm their belief that "Christianity is a core factor in the spiritual, legal and cultural development of Europe", a cornerstone of its identity that "has defined the essence and character of its civilization". They also apprehend the threats to family values in Europe by "certain powerful interstate actors under the slogan of the struggle against discrimination" noting that "the wellbeing of society in general and each citizen in particular can be achieved only when spiritual values are not neglected." The European Christian Coalition aims to strengthen the cooperation "for the promotion of Christian values in Europe, and the development of effective strategies for further joint action".

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