Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Human Rights Training Manual for European Churches

The Human Rights practitioners of the Conference of European Churches (CEC) member churches met in Serbia 20 years after the disintegration of ex-Yugoslavia to discuss current human rights issues. The participants from Serbia, Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Croatia, Montenegro and FYROM shared their experiences related to the challenges of human rights in the Western Balkans region with the emphasis on violations of freedom of religion or belief. In total the training brought together about 40 participants and lecturers from the CEC member churches. The group also included Roman Catholic, Jewish and Muslim participants and representatives from the country.

At the initiative of the Diocese of Backa of the Serbian Orthodox Church and the Church and Society Commission of CEC (CSC) and in cooperation with the Centre for International Humanitarian Law & International Organizations of the Faculty of Political Science of the University of Belgrade, the Konrad Adenauer Foundation in Belgrade, Finn Church Aid and Church and Peace, the training on Human Rights and Freedom of Religion or Belief for all took place from 7-10 November 2012 in Novi Sad, Serbia. Novi Sad is very representative of CEC with all four CEC member churches of Serbia present in the Serbian province of Vojvodina.

The training on Human Rights, Freedom of Religion or Belief for all was the first such training carried out on the basis of the CSC Human Rights Training Manual for European Churches which has already been published on the CEC CSC Website and therefore served as a test procedure.

The host of the event, Prof. Dr Bishop of Backa Irinej (Bulovic), expressed his warm welcome to the participants emphasizing the need for education in the area of human rights, especially the practical part of the training, so that the knowledge acquired can be implemented when the participants return home.

The morning sessions of the training course started with the theme of the Bible and Human Rights by Orthodox lecturers Prof. Dr Rev. Zoran Krstic and Prof. Dr Bishop of Krusevac David (Perovic). During the theological debate it was emphasized that the concept of Love, according to the teaching of the Apostle Paul, represents very high Christian values that we as Christians are trying to achieve in our everyday life. During the discussion it was stated that in order to protect the Human dignity of all people and all nations, states still need to fully implement the concept of the human rights law. The participants agreed that the Gospel’s commandment ‘Love your neighbor as yourself’ should be fully practiced by people.

Among the themes tested from the Human Rights Manual were International Human Rights Instruments and Mechanisms, Introduction to the International Organizations, Freedom of Religion or belief as fundamental Human Rights, jurisprudence of article 9 of the European Court of Human Rights. During the open debate in the panel discussion the main question was what churches and religious communities have been doing in the past 20 years in the area of freedom of religion or belief in the Western Balkans region. Developments were noticed in the area of minority rights even if the topic of majority v. minority remains a challenge in some parts of the region. Among the current challenges, issues such as discrimination on the grounds of religion or belief in the area of employment, church-state relations, violations of property rights, rights to religious education, violent communication, domestic violence, trafficking of human organs, rights of workers, were mentioned as important priorities for the future. These challenges where followed by a theological discussion referring to Leviticus 19: 17 “You shall not hate your brother in your heart, but you shall reason frankly with your neighbor, lest you incur sin because of him”.

The participants stated that this training would have been needed a long time ago to be used as a tool for conflict prevention and that it constitutes a helpful tool for the continuation of the reconciliation process on the local and national level. The newly created Human Rights network of the Western Balkans region expressed the wish to meet again in 2013 and work on the implementation of the training Manual. The Konrad Adenauer Foundation will translate the Manual into Serbian in 2013 which will facilitate its implementation in this region.

The training was finished in the spirit of Matthew 7:12 - “So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets”.1


Introduction - Rev Rüdiger Noll & Mag Elizabeta Kitanovic

1. Human Rights - Why do they matter for the Churches? - Very Rev. Dr. Georges Tsetsis

3. The Bible and Human Rights - Rev. Anthony Peck

4. The Fundamental Right to Freedom of Religion (Freedom of belief) - Dr. Peter Krömer (Read the unabridged text in German).

7. Human Rights within the Churches - Rev. Dr. Marjory MacLean

CEC Human Rights Material for Training. Workshops and Seminar (on CD)2

Hermine Masmeyer

Natallia Vasilevich & Kati Jääskeläinen

Mag. Elizabeta Kitanovic

Prof. Dr Gerhard Robbers

Johannes Brandstäter

Dr Torsten Moritz

Diane Murray

Dr Chrystalla Kaloyirou

Source: Conference of European ChurchesCEC
Published: The Church and Society Commission of the Conference of European Churches, edited by Mag. Elizabeta Kitanović

The Conference of European Churches (CEC) is a fellowship of some 120 Orthodox, Protestant, Anglican and Old Catholic Churches from all countries of Europe, plus 40 associated organisations. CEC was founded in 1959. It has offices in Geneva, Brussels and Strasbourg. The Church and Society Commission of CEC provides a platform for the CEC membership to reflect on socio-ethical issues ecumenically and to involve them in common action and advocacy in relation to the European Union, the Council of Europe, the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe and the United Nations (in European matters). CSC operates as a forum for action, dialogue and ecumenical training in European affairs. For more information please contact: Mag. Elizabeta Kitanovic│Church and Society Commission of CEC. Rue Joseph II, 174B-1000 BruxellesTel. +32 2 230 17 32 Fax +32 2 231 14 13  E-Mail: eki@cec-kek.be

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