Skip to content

The European Union and religious liberty: progress or indifference?

Free World Class Education
FREE Catholic Classes

6/28/2019 (2 months ago)
Catholic Online (

Despite European Union guidelines and the work of a special envoy for religious freedom and belief, the state of religious freedom inside and outside of Europe at times seems to be worsening, not improving.


Catholic Online (
6/28/2019 (2 months ago)

Published in Europe

Brussels, Belgium, (CNA) - The commentator Martin Kugler has said there is a need for a cultural shift.

According to Kugler, who is president of the Vienna-based Observatory on Religious Intolerance and Discrimination against Christians, a cultural shift is needed to correct false assumptions about persecution against Christians.

There is an assumption that "Christians have always been perpetrators and never victims." This belief seems to be "a dogma that prevents our elites from acknowledging the dramatic increase of both persecution against Christians outside Europe and hate crimes like vandalism against Churches in European countries."

That means that "as long we do not address this anti-Christian narrative, secularist lobbying plays an easy game to marginalize Christian actors and religious impact in public (life)," he said.

There are worrisome hints that religious freedom is at risk on the continent.

Europe has experienced a surge of terrorist attacks with religious motivation in Europe, but also an increase in ultra-nationalism, which chooses a single religion as part of the national heritage and persecutes all the other minorities, Aid to the Church In Need said in its 2018 report on global religious freedom.

Since 2015, the France-based Observatoire de la Christianophobie has monitored incidents of religious intolerance in France. Its recent reports show that in February alone, France witnessed 47 serious acts against religious buildings. Of these, 15 were vandalism, 15 were robberies, ten were acts of desecration, and there was one arson.

The situation is also difficult in Germany, according to recent reports of the Observatory on Religious Intolerance and Discrimination against Christians. In June, the Observatory reported, there were 30 attacks against churches in Germany, both Lutheran and Catholic.

Kugler said that concerning religious freedom in Europe, the main challenge is "a strong anti-Christian bias among the cultural and political elite."

"This phenomenon consists of strong personal prejudices and an understandable fear among journalists and politicians not to present oneself as to 'sympathize' with the Church by defending freedom of expression or conscientious objection."

From a global perspective, the situation of religious freedom is not encouraging. On June 21, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo released the 2018 Annual Report on Religious Freedom. The report stressed that religious persecution is globally on the rise. Eighty percent of the world population suffers from restrictions on religious freedom.

Aid to the Church in Need's 2018 report on global religious freedom considered the time period from June 2016 to June 2018. It listed 38 countries that suffer "grave and extreme violations of religious freedom." Of these 38 countries, the report emphasized, 21 states are "places of persecution." These are Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, Bangladesh, Myanmar, China, North Korea, Eritrea, India, Indonesia, Iraq, Libya, Niger, Nigeria, Pakistan, Palestine, Syria, Somalia, Sudan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, and Yemen.

In 2016 the European Union announced the creation of the position of the Special Envoy for the Promotion of Freedom of Religion or Belief outside the EU.

Jan Figel was appointed the first special envoy for this role. During his time in office, he gave substantial help to secure the release of some persecuted persons, like Czech missionary Petr Jašek and his two collaborators in Sudan, as well as the Sudanese human rights defender Ibrahim Mudawi Adam.

The special envoy's office worked behind the scenes to bring Asia Bibi out of Pakistan. Bibi is the Pakistani Christian woman who was sentenced to death for blasphemy. Acquitted after eight years of imprisonment, her life was still in danger and she was forced to leave her home country.

Figel told CNA that "religious freedom and religious, social responsibility are much more on the agenda now than any time before and religious freedom is repeatedly integrated into the European Development Days."

He has also supported the work of the European Academy of Religion, established in December 2016 in Bologna.

Among signs of progress, Figel includes the "Declaration on Human Dignity for Everyone Everywhere". For him, this is a very timely contribution of scholars and international experts to promote "the universality of human rights stemming from the dignity of each person" as the foundational principle, defined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights

Robert Clarke, director of European Advocacy for ADF International, was critical of the EU's approach and its monitoring of its own work on freedom of religion and belief.

"Despite the EU's commitment to evaluating progress in implementing the Guidelines three years after the adoption, we see that six years have passed and no such report has been released," Clarke told CNA.

He called on the EU to act "transparently and with integrity" in its commitments to religious freedom. The EU should also strengthen the position of its special envoy, he said.

A January 2019 report of the European Parliament noted that there has been no public report about the implementation of the EU Guidelines on Freedom of Religion or Belief. It urged that such evaluation should be made public "without delay," and with required progress reports.

ADF International has cited a 2018 report from a European Parliament Intergroup on religion and belief which concluded that the EU "could do much more to protect religious freedom."


More Europe

Padre Pio overcame suffering with hope, says Italian journalist Watch

Image of Padre Pio

More than 50 years after the death of Padre Pio, one of the last journalists to interview the saint has reflected on the saint's hope and ... continue reading

Spanish bishops on migrants: 'We don't love God if we don't love our brothers' Watch

Image of Migrants

The head of the migration commission for the Spanish Bishops' Conference emphasized that love of neighbor is essential for Christians, and ... continue reading

UK court clears 80-year-old accused of 'mercy killing' her husband Watch

Image of Pills assisted suicide

Family members of an 80-year-old woman in England are advocating for legalized assisted suicide after the woman was found not guilty by a ... continue reading

'Secret preacher' of Dachau concentration camp beatified Watch

Image of Dachau concentration camp

The 'secret preacher of block 17' who witnessed to Christ in a Nazi concentration camp was beatified this week in Limburg, Germany. ... continue reading

Robert Bellarmine, the saint who defended the Church with charity Watch

Image of St. Robert Bellarmine

St. Robert Bellarmine, whose feast is celebrated Sept. 17 on the General Roman Calendar, was a Jesuit and a cardinal who used his ... continue reading

Never Miss any Updates!

Stay up to date with the latest news, information, and special offers.

Deacon Keith Fournier Hi readers, it seems you use Catholic Online a lot; that's great! It's a little awkward to ask, but we need your help. If you have already donated, we sincerely thank you. We're not salespeople, but we depend on donations averaging $14.76 and fewer than 1% of readers give. If you donate just $5.00, the price of your coffee, Catholic Online School could keep thriving. Thank you. Help Now >

Learn about Catholic world

Catholic Online
Inform - Inspire - Ignite

Catholic Online Saints
Your saints explained

Catholic Online Prayers
Prayers for every need

Catholic Online Bible
Complete bible online

Catholic Online News
Your news Catholic eye

Daily Reading
Today's bible reading

Lent / Easter
Death & resurrection of Jesus

Advent / Christmas
Birth of Jesus

Rest of Catholic Online
All Catholic world we offer

Products and services we offer

Catholic Online Shopping
Catholic medals, gifts & books

Advertise on Catholic Online
Your ads on

Catholic Online Email
Email with Catholic feel

Learn the Catholic way

Catholic Online School
Free Catholic education for all

Student Classes
K-12 & Adult Education Classes

Support Free Education
Tax deductible support Free education

Connect with us online

Catholic Online on Facebook
Catholic social network

Catholic Online on Twitter
Catholic Tweets

Catholic Online on YouTube
Enjoy our videos

Catholic Online on Instagram
Shared Catholic moments

Catholic Online on Pinterest
Catholic ideas style inspiration

Catholic Online Logo

Copyright 2019 Catholic Online. All materials contained on this site, whether written, audible or visual are the exclusive property of Catholic Online and are protected under U.S. and International copyright laws, © Copyright 2019 Catholic Online. Any unauthorized use, without prior written consent of Catholic Online is strictly forbidden and prohibited.

Catholic Online is a Project of Your Catholic Voice Foundation, a Not-for-Profit Corporation. Your Catholic Voice Foundation has been granted a recognition of tax exemption under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code. Federal Tax Identification Number: 81-0596847. Your gift is tax-deductible as allowed by law.