Tuesday, July 16, 2024
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Baha'i Centre in Brussels

Some thoughts about public diplomacy for religious freedom

In Europe, freedom of religion or belief is often overlooked in comparison to other human rights. However, advocates argue that it is the foundation for all other freedoms. The recently appointed EU Special Envoy on Freedom of Religion or Belief outside the European Union, Frans van Daele, highlighted the challenges faced in defending and promoting religious freedom in Europe, such as indifference and ignorance. Additionally, the fragmented nature of EU institutions and their own agendas make it difficult to address violations of religious freedom consistently. Collaboration between the EU and the UN is seen as complementary in addressing these issues. In some countries, tensions arise between established majority religions and newer or historic religious minorities, as the state aligns itself with the dominant religion. The EU's public diplomacy aims to promote tolerance, respect, and non-discrimination through education, particularly by eliminating negative stereotypes from schoolbooks. Prioritizing countries based on certain criteria is also part of the EU's strategy, focusing on those open to the EU's message and willing to make progress. However, the EU's public diplomacy is complex, involving navigating its own internal architecture and engaging with the political and social dynamics of target countries. Human Rights Without Frontiers suggests that the EU needs to allocate appropriate resources and funding to its advocacy mechanisms, such as the EU Special Envoy on FoRB and the Intergroup on Freedom of Religion or Belief at the European Parliament, in order to be more effective in promoting religious freedom.

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