Press release, February 10th 2021
Special Envoy for the Promotion of Freedom of Religion or Belief
Cătălin Raiu, member of the panel of experts on Freedom of Religion or Belief at OSCE, welcomes the proposal of Hungarian secretary of state Tristan Azbej to create the mandate of Special Envoy on Freedom of Religion or Belief within the Council of Europe.
Currently, Christianity is the most persecuted religion in the world. The Truro report commissioned by the UK Foreign Office confirms that more than 250.000.000 people worldwide are persecuted and discriminated against for their Christian faith. Although this is currently one of the most serious human rights crises in the world, we notice that this issue is not addressed by the Romanian Government through public policies, Romania being one of the few European countries with no mandate on the promotion of Freedom of Religion or Belief.
At this moment, within the United Nations, there is already a special rapporteur position for Freedom of Religion or Belief (since 1986), the OSCE (since 1997) has a panel of experts on Freedom of Religion or Belief (16 members) and the European Union has created since 2016 the mandate of Special Envoy for the Promotion of Freedom of Religion or Belief outside of the EU, held by Ján Figeľ until December 2019.
The EU Special Envoy on FoRB dealt with various forms of religious persecution and drew attention that government restrictions on religion reached the highest level globally in more than a decade. The work of Ján Figeľ was highly appreciated within the European Union, but for the moment this position is yet to be fill it.
The task of any Special Envoy for the Promotion of Freedom of Religion or Belief is different of what Foreign Affairs Offices or any public authority usually do and it mainly concerns with raising awareness on the importance of Freedom of Religion or Belief, developing strategies and boosting the religious literacy efforts, enhancing religious literacy of career diplomats who need to be offered professional training programs on the state-church relationship, boosting interfaith dialogue, encouraging the freedom of expression of religious organizations in respect of public issues, etc.
Also, half of the EU Member States, as well as the UK or Norway, have created the national mandate on the promotion of FoRB. In this context, we welcome the proposal of Hungarian secretary of state Tristan Azbej to create the same mandate within the Council of Europe. It will definitely bring more coordination within the international context and contribute to the promotion of Freedom of Religion or Belief and democratic values in Europe.
Cătălin Raiu, PhD
President of FoRB Romania