Religions promote discrimination

OSCE: Interreligious Dialogue Against Discrimination

The dialogue between the different religions is one of the most important measures in the fight against discrimination and promotes the preservation of religious freedom. That was the tenor of a conference in Vienna.

The annual “Supplementary Human Dimension Meeting” of the “Organization for Security and Cohesion in Europe” (OSCE) met from April 1st to 2nd in the Vienna Hofburg. The focus of the conference was the promotion and protection of freedom of religion and belief. How this can work in practice was shown by the experts using the example of southern European Albania.

There the different religions work together in an interreligious council, which in recent years has established itself as a good instrument in the fight against discrimination and has strengthened interreligious cooperation.

Dialogue and diversity as conflict prevention

Specifically, the approximately 350 international participants dealt with topics such as hate crimes, discrimination against Muslims, Jews, Christians and members of other religious communities, the roots of discrimination and solutions to combat racism, xenophobia and Islamophobia. OSCE Ambassador Radomir Bohac said that the task of the OSCE to counter the international conference on peacekeeping was through dialogue, tolerance, diversity and human rights, because this is the only way to promote solidarity and prevent conflict.

Polarization is a problem

In her opening statement, the Viennese social ethicist Ingeborg Gabriel expressed concern about the peaceful interstate relations within the OSCE, to which 57 states with 1.3 billion inhabitants belong. She referred to increasing violations of human rights, especially the right to religious freedom, as well as social polarizations along ethnic and religious fault lines that would promote right-wing ideological movements in many countries. Gabriel was the OSCE Special Representative on Combating Racism, Xenophobia and Discrimination in 2017, with a focus on Christians and members of other religions.

However, this problem cannot be solved purely through sanctions, said the social ethicist. According to the expert, supportive measures such as education, personal encounters, empirical studies and compassion are needed as a basic attitude. The social ethicist who teaches at the University of Vienna was concerned about the steady increase in attacks, especially against Christians, but also against other religious groups.

New commitment to human rights necessary

She referred to a 2018 study by the French Ministry of the Interior. According to this, there were over 1,000 so-called "Hatecrimes" - politically motivated crimes - against Christians in France in the previous year, although the number of unreported cases is even higher, according to Gabriel. She was also critical of the non-transparent asylum procedures for people who have converted to Christianity. “Deportations can be fatal here,” says the expert literally. She therefore called for reforms to vague or dubious discrimination laws.

According to Jan Figel, Slovak politician and former EU commissioner, religious freedom is difficult to implement where there is a state religion. “In these states, action is often taken against minorities, as opposed to a secular state, where religious freedom is a good that is easier to implement,” says Figel. The politician therefore considers a renewed commitment to the universality of human rights to be essential. Citizens of western states would also have to learn to accept “their multiple identities”, such as the role of father or employee.


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