“Law and Freedom of Belief in Europe, A Difficult Journey” Discusses Human Rights and Religious Faith – Focusing on the Persecution of The Church of Almighty God

ADHRRF – From January 18 to 19, 2018, the European Federation for Freedom of Belief (FOB) organized a convention on the theme of “Law and Freedom of Belief in Europe, A Difficult Journey” in Sant’Apollonia Auditorium in Florence, Italy. With the influx of immigrants and diversity in Europe, the convention called 0n the member states of the European Union(EU) to assume their responsibility and defend freedom of belief and religion and civil rights to achieve peaceful coexistence, and mutual respect and recognition in such a pluralistic and multi-ethnic society.

The convention was supported by the Council of Europe, the Tuscany Regional Council, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE PA) and the University of Florence. More than 30 human rights experts and religious scholars from Italy, Austria, France, Germany, the United Kingdom and so on attended this convention, including Mr. Willy Fautré (Director of Human Rights Without Frontiers), Prof. Massimo Introvigne (Director of the Center for Studies on New Religions, CESNUR), Ms. Rosita Šoryté (President of the International Observatory of Religious Liberty of Refugees, ORLIR), Mr. Thierry Valle (Director of NGO CAP Liberté de Conscience, France), Dr. Andrea Bottai (National Councilor of the Italian Buddhist Institute Soka Gakkai, IBISG), and the delegation of The Church of Almighty God (CAG) in Italy.

Chaired by Dr. Alessandro Amicarelli, President of FOB, the two-day convention covered six topics, including the Philosophy and theory of law, the sociology of religions, the ideological and legal obstacles to the right to freedom of belief in Europe, the ecclesiastical law, the history of religions and legal aspects of religious confessions, and the law and freedom of belief in Europe.

During the convention, experts and scholars aired their opinions on human rights and religious beliefs, especially on the current situation of the persecution of The Church of Almighty God in China.

Some religious scholars raised the issue that the legal provisions on religious beliefs in some countries are inconsistent with specific implementation. For example, the Constitution of China stipulates freedom of religious belief, but the guarantee of such rights is only on paper. And in reality, the rights to beliefs are hardly protected. This is the case with The Church of Almighty God in China.

Ms. Šoryté said that unlike China, Europe defends the law and all countries of the Union agree with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the freedom of belief. However, receiving refugees who are seeking asylum due to the persecution of beliefs is the biggest issue. She pointed out that The Church of Almighty God in China is brutally persecuted by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) government, and that the CCP government forcibly restricts their freedom of belief, tortures them and even has persecuted some to death. Some Christians have been forced to flee to European countries, but most of their asylum applications have been denied and some of them are even under the threat of being sent back to China. They are in a terrible and dangerous situation. She insisted that they should be accepted and granted refugee status in the countries where they are now.

She also emphasized that the issue of refugees is not merely an issue of freedom, and that all countries should have relevant and appropriate laws to treat them and grant them refugee status. If the protection is not adequate, they will lose their lives.

Professor Silvio Calzolari, the secretary of FOB, said in his speech that religions in China have always been persecuted, such as Falun Gong. It is not easy for these Christians from China to escape such serious persecution of the Chinese government and attend such an occasion today. They need protection and help. Lastly, he called on more organizations and agencies to protect these Christians and work toward the goal of protecting human rights.

During the two-day convention, Prof. Pietro Nocita from Rome and Dr. Alessandro Amicarelli, a human rights specialist and lawyer in London, gave speeches on human rights and religion issues.

At the end of the convention, Prof. Introvigne, from the Center for Studies on New Religions, put forward a very brief analysis of the social origins of religious persecutions. He stressed that the phenomenon of religious persecution is no longer confined to a dark phase of history but is actually a serious phenomenon that occurs all over the world. It starts from intolerance, continues with discrimination and leads to persecution.

In addition, the organizers invited musicians Vincenzo Zitello and Flavio Cucchi to play the harp and the classical guitar, which added a pleasant musical atmosphere to the convention.

It is learned that the European Federation for Freedom of Belief is a federation of associations that advocates and strives for the freedom of thought, religion and belief. This convention they organized won the Medal of the President of the Italian Republic.

The event site of “Law and Freedom of Belief in Europe, A Difficult journey.” (Photo: Lu Xi, Li Yang)
Religious sociologist Prof. Massimo Introvigne speaking at the convention. (Photo: Lu Xi, Li Yang)
FOB Secretary Prof. Silvio Calzolari calls for attention to the persecution of the CAG. (Photo: Lu Xi, Li Yang)
Ms. Šoryté, President of the ORLIR, calls for attention to the asylum applications of Christians from the CAG in European countries. (Photo: Lu Xi, Li Yang)
Participants listening attentively to the speech of the human rights expert. (Photo: Lu Xi, Li Yang)
The group photo of Prof. Pietro Nocita (third from right) from Rome and the representatives of the CAG Christians who participated in the event. (Photo: Lu Xi, Li Yang)
The CAG Christians talking with other participants. (Photo: Lu Xi, Li Yang)
This convention was conferred of the Medal of the President of the Italian Republic. (Photo: Lu Xi, Li Yang)