1 June 1994

Doc. 7095

COMMUNICATION FROM THE COMMITTEE OF MINISTERS

Supplementary reply to Recommendation 1202 (1993)

on religious tolerance in a democratic society

(adopted by the Committee of Ministers on 24 May 1994

at the 513th meeting of the Ministers' Deputies)


1.       The Committee of Ministers shares the Parliamentary Assembly's view regarding the universal importance of religious freedom. It recalls that this freedom is enshrined in Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and guaranteed in Article 9 of the European Convention on Human Rights, and has to be reaffirmed. It recalls that, at the 488th meeting of the Ministers' Deputies (February 1993) it adopted an interim reply to this Recommendation in which it informed the Parliamentary Assembly that it had decided to communicate the Recommendation to governments of the member States and to the Commission of the European Communities.

2.       With regard to paragraphs 16.i and ii, it is recalled that, in the Declaration on combating racism, xenophobia, antisemitism and intolerance adopted at the Vienna Summit (8-9 October 1993), the Heads of State and Government of the member States condemned, inter alia, all forms of religious discrimination, encouraged member States to continue efforts already undertaken to eliminate this phenomenon, committed themselves to strengthening national laws and international instruments, and undertook to combat any action or language likely to strengthen fears and tensions between groups from different religious backgrounds.

3.       Furthermore, in the Plan of Action on the same subject, member States are invited "to reinforce guarantees against all forms of discrimination based on race, national or ethnic origin or on religion, and to this end to:

      -       re-examine without delay their legislation and regulations with a view to eliminating provisions likely to generate discrimination based on any of these reasons or likely to sustain prejudice;

      -       assure effective implementation of legislation aimed at combating racism and discrimination;

      -       reinforce and implement preventive measures to combat racism, xenophobia, antisemitism and intolerance, giving special attention to awareness-raising and confidence-building measures."

      The Parliamentary Assembly is represented on the Committee of Experts called for in the Plan of Action which held its first meeting in March 1994. The Committee of Ministers attaches great importance to the work of this Committee, the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance, which will, inter alia, review member States' legislation, policies and other measures to combat racism, xenophobia, antisemitism and intolerance, and their effectiveness, and formulate general policy recommendations to member States.

      It should be added, moreover, that within the framework of the Seminar "Europe versus Intolerance", held in Strasbourg on 3-4 March 1994, a Workshop took place on "Moral and religious forces faced by rising fundamentalism".

4.       As far as paragraph 16.iii to xiii is concerned, within the Council of Europe's Intergovernmental Programmes of Activities, a 3-year project on "Democracy, human rights, minorities: educational and cultural aspects" was launched at the beginning of 1993 by the Council for Cultural Co-operation (CDCC). The project, through a multidisciplinary approach, will aim principally at strengthening the fundamental principles of democracy and respect for human rights by contributing to the promotion of practices and attitudes which respect democratic values.

      Specifically, within the context of this project, an interdisciplinary seminar will take place in Klingenthal in June 1994 on "Specificities and universality: the problem of identities". This seminar will discuss questions relating to religious tolerance in the framework of a wider discussion on respect for diversity and minorities.

      Furthermore, as part of the 1994 programme of European Teachers' seminars, a seminar will take place in October on the theme "Studying religions in social sciences at school". The aim of the seminar is to examine: how to approach the teaching of religions as social and cultural facts, the analysis of which is necessary for an understanding of the past and the present; and, how to provide teachers with the means and the elements for reflection which allow them to integrate the teaching of religions in various subject areas linked in particular with the humanities and the social sciences and to turn it into a "horizontal" theme.

5.       Moreover, the Plan of Action foresees that work on reinforcing mutual understanding and confidence between people through the Council of Europe's co-operation and assistance programmes should focus, inter alia, on strengthening programmes aimed at eliminating prejudice in the teaching of history by emphasising positive mutual influence between different countries, religions and ideas in the historical development of Europe.