Common Declaration of the European Conference
April 23/24, 1999
[The following is the official translation of the Common Declaration issued by FECRIS after the European Conference April 23-24, 1999 Paris, France. It was approved by unanimous vote. This translation was done in Great Britain]
By FECRIS--Federation of Centers of Research and Information on Sectarianism
Common Declaration of the European Conference of 23 and 24 April 1999
The undersigned European associations are united in fighting the effects of adverse sectarian practices and to assist the victims of such practices. Representatives of these Associations meeting in Paris on 23/24 April 1999 declare their commitment to the fundamental freedoms as embodied in the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the 1950 European Convention on Human Rights and Fundamental
Freedoms and the 1989 International Convention on the Rights of Children.
These associations reaffirm their commitment to the freedom of thought and worship and the freedom of speech and the right to free association. These are recognized as cornerstones of societies based
on democratic principles.
The associations stress that it is not for governments or public authorities to decide on issues such as, the right of individuals to make their own decisions regarding their personal commitments, be they
philosophical or religious.
On the other hand, they recognize that it is the duty of public authorities
- To protect and guarantee the above freedoms;
- To make available free information to enable individuals to protect themselves against the adverse practices of sectarianism;
- To protect individuals against any form of mental manipulation and psychological and / or intellectual conditioning in whatever context.
These associations support resolution 134 of 18th February 1998 of the European Parliament's Committee of Civil Liberties and Internal Affairs.
This resolution invites Member States to "take measures, in compliance with the principles of legality, with a view to fighting abuses caused to people by certain sects which should be denied the status of cult
or religious organization endowing them with certain tax advantages and legal protection".
These associations note that a legal definition of the word sect is not part of the agenda of national parliaments of the European Union.
The associations do not intend to rule on any definition with regard to the meaning of the word sect. However they consider that certain objective criteria relating to sectarian practices have been - for at
least fifteen years - sufficiently established to determine these movements, denounce their recruitment methods and define their characteristics.
Recognizing the above, FECRIS hereby affirms that:
- To deny the existence of national, regional or transnational sectarian organizations, whether hidden or not under the mask of philosophical or religious belief cannot but contribute to abuse public opinion and the authorities are refrained from taking action against the same.
- We must not confuse "spiritual seeking" be it related or not to a well-established philosophical or religious movement, with sectarian groups whose practices impede the aspirations of individuals.
- The philosophical or religious claims of a group do not entitle it to violate human rights, the law or to disturb or unsettle social balance.
Within the above context, FECRIS requests:
- The official recognition of FECRIS, in order that it should be consulted by the European Parliament, the Council of Europe, the Organization for Cooperation and Security in Europe (OSCE), also by the United Nations and their organizations and commissions. FECRIS should, furthermore be in continual liaison with the administrative authorities empowered to apply fiscal and customs procedures for States and for the European Union, and with other international organizations having the same aims.
- Permanent study groups should be created within the national parliaments, the European Parliament and the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe. They should be charged with the observation of the sectarian phenomenon and, in the event, to propose legislative measures and executive measures.
- Alongside this, the setting up of a permanent European organization charged with gathering information on sectarianism and in collaboration with national authorities to take preventive measures and provide public information.
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