Der Report zur weltweiten religiösen Freiheit des “Observatory on Intolerance and Discrimination against Christians” vermittelt einen Überblick darüber, wie es mit der Religionsfreiheit und dem Recht zur freien Ausübung der Religion tatsächlich steht.
In Westeuropa, so die Studie, ergeben sich Probleme durch die zunehmende Säkularisierung. Konflikte entstehen auch im Zusammenhang mit muslimischen Religionsgruppen. In Spanien etwa, wo das Recht auf religiöse Freiheit garantiert ist, wird über religiöse Symbole in öffentlichen Gebäuden ebenso diskutiert, wie wir es aus Deutschland kennen. In Deutschland feuert die Diskussion über Sexualmoral und den Schutz menschlichen Lebens im Zusammenhang mit der katholischen Kirche die Debatte über religiöse Symbole im öffentlichen Raum an.
Dies ist nur ein kurzer Abriss. Der Bericht ist ausgesprochen ausführlich. In voller Länge kann er nur in englischer Sprache gelesen werden.
SUMMARY OF THE 2010 REPORT ON RELIGIOUS FREEDOM IN THE WORLD
The 2010 Report on Religious Freedom in the World consists of 194 single country reports organised in alphabetical order to facilitate consultation. In this summary we have preferred to outline an overall picture that is instead organised by geographical areas to provide a more homogeneous overview of the problems present in individual countries since often, but not always, geographical proximity also involves cultural similarities.
SUMMARY EUROPE AND EURASIA
The countries that belong to Western Europe are experiencing similar situations deriving from problems caused by Islamic immigration, and, in some cases, caused by the spreading of a secularist mentality that is manifested in anti-Christian attitudes, even at the level of European institutions. In Spain religious freedom is guaranteed but the secularism present in some political circles is now resulting in laws that place it at risk such as, for example, the subject of the presence of religious symbols in public buildings and locations, lessons on “Education on Citizenship, the Law on Cults approved by the Catalan parliament and laws on conscientious objection.
In Belgium there were even searches of the seat of the Belgian Episcopal Conference and the Cathedral of Malines, within the framework of investigations of crimes linked to paedophilia. In France the aggressive secularism of recent years appears to be weakening and problems linked to the presence of a large Islamic community have been reported. In Germany the attitude of cultural opposition to the principles expressed by Christian communities, in particular the Catholic Church, on subjects such as the family, sexual morals, the defence of human life, mainly reported by the press and the media, often results in an attitude of preconceived hostility against Christianity and provokes those with tendential extremists attitudes to assume violent ones against religious symbols and buildings.
The presence of a large Muslim community with different ethnic and religious origins also creates problems in regulating relations between the state and Muslims. The same considerations apply for Italy, where a bitter debate resulted in a sentence from the European Court for Human Rights concerning the exhibiting of the Crucifix in schoolrooms which was then appealed by the Italian government. In Holland and in the United Kingdom the development of a multicultural, multiethnic and multidenominational society has led to contradictions in a model of coexistence that seems to be implemented mainly to the disadvantage of the majority of Christian citizens and is causing powerful reactions concerning identity. In Greece there do not seem to be such tensions. Problems reported derive from the non-orthodox Christian communities complaining at times of administrative obstacles or legal restrictions applied to their religious practices. In Cyprus the division into two regions, due to Turkish occupation in 1974, has caused immense damage to the country’s religious and artistic heritage, in addition to the “colonisation” of former Greek territories with the settling of 160,000 Turks coming from the continent.
In European countries that until 1989 were subject to the communist regime, there are still legal obstructions and behaviours deriving from a mentality that is hostile to the religious phenomenon per se. In Serbia, for example, even though the constitution establishes full religious freedom, in practice the law restricts it by discriminating between communities and denying some groups legal status. The law in fact is in some cases arbitrarily interpreted and applied by local representatives of institutions. There continues instead to be progress made in the restitution by the government of property confiscated from religious communities in the course of 1945, or the years that followed. Tension between the various religious communities remains high in Kosovo, especially after the country’s declaration of independence in February 2008. The real origin of the conflict usually lies in ethnic problems, but the religious element is so closely intertwined that it simply exasperates the situation making it difficult to distinguish between the reasons for the tension.
In the Slovak Republic a request is still pending with the Constitutional Court regards to the constitutionality of an amendment made to the law on the registration of religious groups that increased the number of requisites needed to obtain it. In Hungary the government is instead working actively, according to religious communities, to facilitate the restitution of property confiscated from them during the communist regime as it is guaranteeing all religious groups equal opportunities to re-obtain control over their assets. At the end of October 2009, 2,576 properties had been returned to their owners and $342 million had been paid in compensation. In Romania the government continues to treat in clearly different ways groups that are legally recognised and those that are not. Requisites for 8 registration and obtaining a legal status continue to pose problems for the smaller communities.
A number of international organisations, non-governmental organisations and minority religious groups have criticized the law on religious freedom currently in force, since it allegedly “institutionalises” this discrimination. There are only eighteen officially recognised religious communities although an official register does not yet exist. There still remains the problem concerning the Greek Orthodox Church recovering property seized in 1948 under the communist regime and transferred to the Romanian Orthodox Church which is refusing to return it. The Greek Orthodox Church was the only one that suffered such confiscations during that period.
In Bulgaria although the Constitution acknowledges the right to religious freedom, laws on this subject remain rather ambiguous and therefore often lead local authorities to make arbitrary decisions concerning the situations of religious groups, especially those that are not registered. In March 2009 the socialist government approved a draft bill aimed at reforming primary and secondary education which includes a rule that would like to forbid having religious symbols in schools. This would range from the Christian Cross to headwear for Muslims. There are still complaints from the larger religious denominations (Orthodox, Catholics, Muslims, Jews and many Protestant groups) concerning the difficulties encountered in regaining possession of their many properties confiscated during the previous regime. The difficult relations between the political authorities in Belarus and religious groups in the country are deeply rooted in the country’s history in which the Soviet cultural legacy still survives. Although the constitution recognises the right to religious freedom, legislation on this subject effectively restricts significantly its concrete implementation. The work of foreign missionaries encounters administrative obstacles above all in obtaining residency permits, and religious propaganda activities are subject to strict controls and restrictions by security forces. Political prisoners and those detained for reasons of conscience are often denied the right to worship. For reasons that are apparently bureaucratic ones, those belonging to religious communities disliked by those in power, are often subject to monetary sanctions and fines. The cult of the martyrs of the Soviet period, whose memory is kept alive above all within the Orthodox communities, is also discouraged.
In the Ukraine political clashes in the country have not for the moment resulted in significant changes as far as the free exercising of religious freedom is concerned. In April 2009, the Ministry of Defence set up together with the larger religious organisations, a Council for Pastoral Support, aimed at encouraging religious support in the Armed Forces. Another important result was obtained when changes to the Penal Code came into force. The rights established for detainees now include the right to greater freedom to practice their religion. In Russia there have been positive developments between the Orthodox Church and the Catholic Church. Diplomatic relations between the Holy See and the Russian Federation have been raised to the ambassadorial level by Russia and to that of an apostolic nunciature by the Holy See. Abuses by the local authorities have been reported by Protestant groups. In Armenia a debated draft law on freedom of conscience and religious organisations, approved at a first reading held on March 19th 2009 by the Armenian parliament, has caused negative reactions from many international organisations.
Provisions contained in the draft law envisage restrictions to public freedom of expression of one’s faith and strict sanctions that are also penal, including a two-year prison sentence, against so-called “improper proselytism”, as well as a series of administrative obligations, such as compulsory registration for those intending to perform activities of worship. Azerbaijan, a country in which until now the atmosphere had been tolerant and balanced, caused concern in the past year due to a possible deterioration in respect for religious freedom.
New elements introduced into legislation, obstacles encountered in the registration process, mistrustful attitudes and at times even violent ones from local officials and the police regards to Azeri converted to non-traditional religions, the frequent confiscation of religious material all give rise to concern. Finally, in Turkey the situation regarding Christians remains unchanged from the 2008 Report, while the year dedicated to St. Paul (June 2008 to June 2009), which led one to believe the situation was improving, saw an increase in acts of violence.
It is still not possible for Turks to openly convert to Christianity, because of discrimination against converts. The Commission of 9 Religious Freedom of the European Union held a meeting in Venice in March 2010 and adopted a resolution asking Turkey to legally recognize religious minorities, which they do not currently do, particularly for the Latin Church, and to firmly oppose the discrimination they are subject to. The legal problems of the Orthodox Church and the Muslim Alawite community have not been resolved.
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