IRF Statement at OSCE Conference on Combating Intolerance and Discrimination against Christians
Credit: Maksym Vasin, IRF
of the Institute for Religious Freedom at the OSCE Conference
On Combating Intolerance and Discrimination against Christians
(Vienna, 14 December 2016)
Dear Execellencies, Ladies and Gentelmens,
Today, speaking about the current persecution of Christians in Europe, we can again recall the consequences of the Russian aggression against Ukraine over the last 3 years. We would like to rise just few recent facts:
1) Dozens of churches and prayer houses are still illegally seized by the Russian-backed militants in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions in eastern Ukraine. The last such incident took place a month ago when a temple was seized from the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Horlivka city, near to Donetsk.
2) Not so better situation in the occupied Crimea. A week ago in Bakhchysarai city the Russian authorities banned the Evangelical Church "Voice of Hope" from using their own house of worship, which is private property of believers.
Only cessation of the Russian aggression can stop such crimes against Christian from religious minorities in the mentioned regions of Ukraine.
At the same time, we would like to draw attention to another equally important aspect.
At present, we see a new source of persecution of Christians in the western democracies, including those of the European Union. It stems from the conflict that arises from implementing the concept of equal opportunities, in particular, from the ambiguous interpretation of the concepts of gender, gender identity, and sexual orientation. The introduction of legislation to combat discrimination on these grounds is often interpreted to the dètriment of fundamental human rights such as freedom of conscience and religion, freedom of speech and expression.
Thus, we observe a trend of excluding, stamping, marginalization, legal and even criminal prosecution of those Christians who continue to hold, or publicly voice their conservative view on family, marriage, gender or sexual education for children. This public viewpoint of Christians, based on their religious beliefs, sometimes qualified as "incitement to discrimination" or "hate speech" with related legal punishment. As a result, we can see that the efforts against the discrimination of one group of people leads to the persecution and violation of human rights of another group.
In light of this, a broad public discussion about balancing anti-discrimination measures and fundamental rights to freedom of conscience and religion, speech and expression is gravely overdue. Participating States should take measures to prevent an unilateral approach to combating discrimination, and to retain the possibility for public discussions and criticism, to avoid providing state protection to only one ideological concept at the expense of other views, in particular, those, based on religious values.
We recommend OSCE and ODIHR to pay special attention to these both challenges.
Delivered by Mr. Maksym Vasin, CEO of the Institute for Religious Freedom,
at the OSCE Conference (Session 1) on December 14, 2016 in Vienna
© 2016 The Institute for Religious Freedom, Ukraine