CEC: International Human Rights Day: Protecting Places of Worship
10 December marks International Human Rights Day, when the international community commemorates the 1948 adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights by the United Nations. Enshrined in this declaration is the right to freedom of religion, including the right to teach, practice, and worship.
Advancing freedom of religion or belief is central to the Conference of European Churches’ human rights work. Churches across Europe also have a deep commitment to this aspect of human rights work, including the protection places of worship.
Places of worship are a key ingredient to freedom of religion or belief and an essential aspect of cultural heritage in Europe. Their protection through legal instruments and public policy contribute to social cohesion and inclusive, tolerant societies. Throughout and beyond Europe, these places draw pilgrims and form a major part of the identity of many religious communities.
Destruction of these sacred places during armed conflict and war contributes to social erosion, fragmentation, and the displacement of peoples. Recent loss of ancient sites in Iraq and Syria, have especially brought this issue to international attention. Destruction and loss of these sites demoralises communities and compromises the peaceful coexistence of diverse religions and cultures.
We encourage the European Institutions to uphold this important aspect of freedom of religion or belief and express solidarity with those who work for the legal protection of places of worship. The Conference of European Churches will continue to monitor and develop this aspect of its human rights work throughout 2017.