“EP report on religious freedom is unjustly weakened”


European Union

Addy de Jong, RD

Photo DPA, Michael Kappelar

A report presented and discussed in the European Parliament (EP) on Monday about the increasing persecution of people for their religion has been unjustly weakened by amendments, some Christian parties believe. Five questions about the Karski report.

What kind of report is this, and where does it come from?

The report is an initiative of the European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR) group in the EP. The group, of which the Dutch Reformed SGP party is also a member, has 64 members and is the fifth largest party in the EP. The report, written by the Polish MEP Karol Karski, roughly charts the increasing worldwide persecution of minorities because of their philosophy or religion. It also makes recommendations to the EP, the European Commission (EC) and the Council of Ministers.

What kind of recommendations?

Karski, for example, recommends that the EC makes combating religious persecution a more prominent policy point and include this in trade contacts and treaties with other countries.

He also calls on the EC to work more and more quickly on a proper filling of the post of special envoy for religious freedom, a post that has been vacant for some time after the departure of the Cypriot former European Commissioner Christos Stylianides.

Furthermore, the rapporteur points out that governments in some countries have used the Covid19 pandemic to discriminate (even more) against minorities. He also points to the development that “in more than 70 countries in the world”, governments are introducing new legislation to criminalise blasphemy and apostasy (more severely). The EU should hold such countries to account.

According to Karski, Europe should be aware that churches and religious organisations are often important for promoting peace. And: “In remote areas of developing countries and in conflict zones, they are often the only providers of health care and other social services.”

What criticism do Christian parties have of this report?

When the report was presented in the EP on Monday evening, Dutch ChristianUnion parliamentarian Peter van Dalen and his SGP colleague Ruissen, but also rapporteur Karski himself, raised two points of criticism. Because of amendments by progressive groups, the final version of the report differs considerably from the initial version. This is because elements have been deleted on the one hand, and elements have been added on the other.

What went missing from the original report?

To begin with, the final report has become a lot more general and less specific and concrete. In the first version, countries and religious groups were mentioned by name; a majority in the EP has amended such elements.

Also missing is the sentence that “Christians are estimated to make up the majority of all religiously persecuted” and that 340 million Christians worldwide experience high levels of persecution and discrimination, with more than 4,500 Christians being killed in 2020 alone because of their religion.”

What has been added?

The report has been amended to include phrases blaming religions for “violence against women and LGBTIQ people” and linking the theme of “persecution for one’s faith” with the objections religions sometimes raise against abortion and policies. That focuses on sexual freedom and so-called reproductive health rights. According to Ruissen, Van Dalen and others, matters are wrongly mixed up here, and the report goes beyond its original objective.

Can objecting Christian or conservative parliamentarians do anything about these amendments of the report?

Not much. The fact that the Karski report has been amended in the manner described above already shows the balance of power in the EP. If the report is voted on around noon on Tuesday, the changes made by the progressive parties are likely to hold. Conservative Christian groups and parliamentarians will then have to make do. To quote MEP Peter van Dalen: “Let’s count our blessings. The fact that the EP is paying attention to this theme is cause for gratitude.”

This article was previously published in Dutch daily Reformatorisch Dagblad on May 3th, 2022.



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