The increasing importance of matters of Religion and Belief in public life across Europe has been recognised in the treaties governing the European Union.
The Articles of the Treaty of Lisbon 2008, and the Charter of Fundamental Rights, have led to greater awareness across Europe of the need to implement the related directives on discrimination on grounds of Religion and Belief, and promote harmony and mutual understanding between members of different religion and belief traditions.
The European Network on Religion and Belief (ENORB) seeks to work with others to combat discrimination and promote mutual understanding in the field of Religion and Belief, and to facilitate dialogue between Religion and Belief traditions of all backgrounds, on the basis of these texts, as set out below:
Article 10 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights guarantees that: “Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion. This right includes freedom to change religion or belief and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or in private, to manifest religion or belief, in worship, teaching, practice and observance. The right to conscientious objection is recognised, in accordance with the national laws governing the exercise of this right.”
Article 13 of the Treaty of Lisbon which guarantees: “in defining and implementing its policies and activities, the Union shall aim to combat discrimination based on sex, racial or ethnic origin, religion or belief, disability, age or sexual orientation.”
Article 17 of the Treaty of Lisbon which states that the European Union: “Respects and does not prejudice the status under national law of churches and religious associations or communities in the Member States; equally respects the status under national law of philosophical and non-confessional organisations; recognising their identity and their specific contribution, the Union shall maintain an open, transparent and regular dialogue with these churches and organisations.”
Where we come from
Organisations from several European countries and from very different traditions – inter-faith and inter-convictional organisations, churches, diverse religious groups, philosophical and non-confessional associations – have come together to build this initiative.
We are conscious of the delicate and often controversial policy issues in the field of Religion and Belief, for example, hate crimes and discrimination; employment practice in relation to religious or non-religious beliefs; freedom of dress and to wear religious insignia; equalities in relation to gender and sexual orientation; education in a plural society.
Many of these issues are primarily the domain of member states, but they also have implications across national boundaries, for all religion/belief groups, and for the EU.
The organising group for ENORB consisted of an Exploratory Group of leading members of Religion and Belief organisations at European level and from several European member-states, which came together from December 2010 not as official delegates to ENORB – but as concerned representatives of different belief traditions, including (non-exhaustive list):
All Faiths and None (AFAN)
Federation of Islamic Organisations in Europe
European Buddhist Union
European Humanist Federation
Hindu Forum Europe
London Boroughs Faiths Network
Stichting Pagan Federation International
Strichting Uri Netherlands
United Religion Initiative
FEMYSO (Forum of European Muslim Youth and student Organisation)
Interfaith Council of Sweden
International association for Religious freedom European and Middle Eastern region
Faiths Without borders
Hand in hand against Racism
Amity for Human rights & Development
Women’s Interfaith Network
Ahmadiyya anjuman Ishaat-i-Islam Lahore
Bektadhi community of Macedonia
The Cordoba Foundation
All shared a commitment to meeting: for regular dialogue, to initiate action to combat discrimination and promote mutual understanding, and to reporting back to their own organisations.
Preparatory meetings were held during 2010-11 with the Presidencies of both the EU Parliament and the European Commission, as well as officials from DGs Justice, Employment, Education and Culture; and with the EU Networks responsible for the other key strands of Equalities – gender, race, disability, age, sexual orientation, notably ENAR, which generously made available office space for ENORB when required.
A Constitutive Assembly was held in Brussels in December 2011, and ENORB was registered as a not-for-profit association (ASBL) under Belgian Law in May 2012. A Launch Seminar was held in May 2012 under the auspices of the Presidency of the European Parliament, which brought together representatives of over 50 inter-convictional, inter-faith, religious and humanist, atheist and free-thinking organisations. European seminars and conferences on current topics are held regularly in Brussels, and an increasing number of seminars in EU memberstates (10 last year).