More confidently

The September issue of Europe Infos

The September issue of Europe Infos, a monthly magazine published by the Commission of the EU Bishops Conference (Comece) in partnership with the Jesuit European Office (Ocipe), gives wide coverage to the problem of “poverty”, which was the focus of the workshop for dialogue between Comece and the Church and Society Committee and some delegates of the European Commission on 9th July as well as of the yearly meeting of European religious leaders on 19th July. The issue is opened by a leading article of the British Jesuit Frank Turner about austerity. The same piece opens this issue of SIR Europe as well.Religions against discrimination and slander. Anti-Islamic policies and anti-Semitism are two clear proofs of the increasing religion-based discrimination and slander, which have been reported in Europe over the last few years. General anti-religious rallies are aplenty, but it is the religion of minorities and foreigners that is not respected in the first place. The role of religious players in the building of peace and democracy was the focus of the third workshop organised by Comece, the German Evangelical Church and the Konrad Adenauer Foundation. Vincent Legrand provides a very detailed report of the speeches given in the afternoon of 14th July in Brussels. The religious communities have great responsibility for fighting discrimination and slander as well as xenophobia and racism. Communication and dialogue are and will be two winners in this fight, because ignorance begets fear and consequently the rejection of others, even if they are a minority. There’s no shortage of positive examples of inter-religious initiatives against xenophobia and racism, such as those presented in Brussels: the first one, “Proposed action to fight xenophobia, racism and violence”, was born in Germany in the Nineties and has never stopped growing; it aims at promoting contacts and exchanges between people from different backgrounds; the second one, also born in Germany, is the committee of religions established in 2000, which in 2009 published a list of effective actions for easier cohabitation in its manifesto “Promoting confidence”.Moving young people. In the Europe 2020 Strategy presented last March, one of the seven “beacon” initiatives aims to improve young Europeans’ mobility as well as the quality of educational schemes. Christina Gerlach of the European Office of Catholic organisation for youth and adult education explains that the goals of the European Commission are: extending learning options to all young people, promoting their commitment and active involvement in society, launching a framework for the employment of young people to increase their professional chances. Effective proposals for the 2014-2020 programmes will be developed by the Commission in 2011, based on a poll, which will also be open to youth movements. According to the staff of the Catholic youth projects, “the new initiative should first and foremost emphasise the benefits of mobility in improving young people’s chances on the job market, so it would mainly be driven by economic considerations”, Gerlach writes. “Personal development would still be conditional on such goals”. However, to understand the actual meaning of the initiative, we will have to wait until September, when the Commission will publish a Notice and an action plan about such programme. “Lautsi vs Italy”. Jesuit father Henri Madelin reports on the story of the Italian case of the removal of the crucifix from schoolrooms, which is currently being discussed by the European Court for Human Rights, and provides an update on the Grand Chambre hearing of 30th June. This is the case of a woman, Soile Lautsi, living in Italy, mother of two children who attend state school in Abano Terme, who, based on the principle of laicism, asked that crucifixes should be removed from the schoolrooms. After appealing to several Italian authorities, even the Council of State, her appeal having always been rejected, the woman filed the case with the European Court. Last November, Strasbourg found for her. But the Italian Government challenged the ruling. Interestingly, father Madelin points out, at the June hearing the Court heard some odd voices, such as the lay associations Acli-Social Weeks of France, German Zdk which submitted “the arguments of lay people committed to society, not politicians or consecrated people”. Italy was also supported by some countries of Central-Eastern Europe of strong Catholic or Orthodox traditions, concerned about “stopping the legitimisation of new rights inspired by a liberal and secularised ideology”. Quoting the Italian delegate, Madelin recalls that “what is most outrageous in this case is that religious freedom is denied in the name of religious freedom!”. The Court is expected to issue a final ruling.

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