- Mohammed Cartoon Controversy (Denmark
- Crucifix ban (Italy) – European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg.
- Last Sunday: Minaret ban Switzerland (57%) – over 1 Million Suisse citizens have cast their vote in the peoples referendum.
The outcome of this referendum has an immensely populist appeal in most European Countries. Thus, the nationalists and right -wing demagogues are having a feast in misusing this angst for their own political agendas.
If a particular religion claims to be exclusively assigned by divine providence to be the only one, the human rights of people of other faiths or convictions can be severely endangered.
- Its emphasis on man’s spiritual and eternal nature and dignity as a child of God.
- Its rejection of hatred and violence
- Its obligation to practice love by living for others (e.g. helping the weak and needy)
- Its power to forgive and reconcile
- Its vision for a world of peace, harmony and mutual prosperity
As Dr. Hans Küng has stressed in his “Project World-Ethos”, there needs to be the mutual affirmation of the fact that different religions have more points in common than there are points of disagreement.
To overcome the current impasse in the dialogue amongst religions and cultures a real paradigm shift maybe unavoidable:
Rather than seeing each other as competitors, religious leaders need to see each other as individual members of one global village or even one big world family. That means, in spite of our doctrinal differences we practice mutual respect and love and towards each other. Only by joining our forces we may be able to tackle the real problems of humanity, which are targeted in the UN Millennium Development Goals (extreme starvation, child mortality, epidemics, etc).
"Each civilization should be judged by the way it treats her minorities!” Mahatma Gandhi
- Antisemitism is on the rise again.
- Islamophobia is spreading throughout Western - and Eastern Europe.
- Sectophobia – the irrational fear of so called “sects” or religious minority groups has been rising during the last 40 years in Western Europe and since the fall of the iron curtain is now also manifesting in Eastern-Europe.
Various European governments have created “black lists” of religious minority groups. Sadly, according to the motto “big fish eats little fish”, even main stream Churches are often promoting state sponsored discrimination of so called “sects” or small religions. This has been possible through their powerful constituencies in most European countries.
Therefore it is highly hypocritical of religious and political leaders to point their fingers at Switzerland if at home they discriminate their own minorities.
The case of Austria
In Austria, we have over 80 percent Catholics. Islam, with 500 000 Muslims constitutes the second largest faith community. There are approximately 600 religious minority groups. Only 14 faith communities enjoy official recognition by the state. With a population of 8.3 Million Austria has no less than 34 Anti–“Sect” offices operating in the country. Proportionally, this marks an unmatched record in Europe and even on a global scale.
- Including the Federal “Sect” Observatory, there are six (6) state sponsored sect-observation offices
- Nine (9) Catholic Sect Offices
- Seven (7) Protestant Sect Offices
- Four (4) Private Sect Offices
- Eight (8) Family Counselling Offices with special emphasis on “Sectarian issues”.
Victims especially hold the state responsible for creating an atmosphere of religious intolerance and spiritual apartheid. As a result, in July 2008 the European Court of Human Rights has rebuked Austria for its discriminating legislation against non-traditional faith communities.
In spite of many objections by faith communities, the Council of Europe- who is now severely condemning the Swiss minaret ban (rightly so) -has granted FECRIS (Fédération européenne des centres de recherche et d’information sur le sectarisme) consultative status in 2005. The named organization - under the banner of human rights - promotes discriminating anti-cult legislation throughout Europe. FECRIS receives substantial funding (over 90% of its annual budget- as quoted by the former SG of the organization) from the French government. The numerous protests of human rights defenders in the OSCE, COE, the UN and other Institutions have so far been in vain.
Recommendations to religious leaders, NGO representatives and human rights defenders
- Appeal to governments to stop funding prejudiced public and private organizations which promote and propagate defamatory statements about faith communities and religious organizations. Such activities infringe the principles of tolerance and integration promoted by the UN, OSCE, COE and the European Union.
- Appeal to religious leaders to promote tolerance toward all religious groups, regardless whether they are weak or strong, large or small.
- Appeal to religious leaders to invoke the great power of religion for reconciliation and peace building. After all, we are one family under God.
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.