Europe’s Bishops Urge Defense of Religious Freedom

February 2011 – Belgrade

The annual meeting of the Joint Committee of European Churches (CEC) and the Council of European Episcopal Conferences (CCEC) was held 18-20 February 2011 in Belgrade. The meeting focused on the theme “National Identity and European Integration: The Contribution of Christians.” In a closing statement, meeting participants affirmed that “religious freedom is a right and a value that every democratic society should be open to promoting and safeguarding.” The final press release of the meeting may be read in four languages at the links below.

Dr. Massimo Introvigne, founder and managing director of the Center for Studies on New Religions (CESNUR) and newly appointed OSCE Representative on Combating Racism, Xenophobia, and Intolerance against Christians and Members of Other Religions, delivered an address on the first day of the meeting. Referring to the intentions of Pope Benedict XVI to make 2011 an international year of religious freedom, Dr. Introvigne affirmed his own commitment to such an agenda, “an agenda which naturally is not aimed only at Catholics and not even just Christians but – on the basis of the universal rights of the human person – is addressed to all people of goodwill.” As part of his commitment, Dr. Introvigne pointed to the work of his OSCE office, including diplomatic activity and country visits, to a 4 May 2011 OSCE Roundtable in Rome on the theme “Intolerance and Discrimination against Christians,” and to a suggested 7 May 2011 “Day of Christian Martyrs of our time, to be celebrated not – or not only – in churches, where there are already similar initiatives in place, but in schools, cities, and public institutions because the persecution of Christians does not affect just Christians, but everyone.”