European Network on Religion and Belief – Brussels May 2012

Walking Madou – the entrance to a no-car zone in Brussels where children play on the street.  Several enorb participants stayed overnight at the nearby Institute of Cultural Affairs.

People from over 50 organisations gathered from across Europe yesterday and today in Brussels for mutual understanding and shared action.  Some were from religious traditions, some were from belief*/non-confessional/convictional/humanist/philosophical traditions.

A round table meeting was held at the EU Parliament with Vice-President Laszlo Surjan.  We discussed the contribution of religious and non-religious communities to overcoming discrimination, violence and extremism in Europe.

Several LBFN members had made suggestions for our contribution on moving from anger and violence to dialogue and positive action: I included the aftermath of 7/7 and the shooting of Jean-Charles de Menezes, Hate Crime Forums, responses to the protests against Harrow Mosque’s new minaret and the role of women.  Thank you to everyone who was in touch about this.

Here are some photos of the event.

Vice-President Laszlo Surjan (third from left) at enorb’s round table at the EU Parliament, with (l-r) Melissa Sonnino (CEJI), Jackie Goymour (Women’s Interfaith Network & LBFN) and Alan Murray (President of enorb).

Harjinder Singh (Sangat Sahib Gurudwara) and Martin Gurvich (Hindu Forum Europe – and enorb’s treasurer).

Catriona Robertson (Convener, LBFN, centre) speaking on how local communities move from violence to positive action, with Yolande Iliano (Chair, Religions for Peace – Europe, left) and Karen Walkden (LBFN, right). Thanks to Melissa Sonnino for the photo.

Georges Lienard (G3i) addressing the round table on Secular European Traditions: what contribution to European security?

Alan Murray (AFAN) and Dennis de Jong MEP.  Dennis spoke at today’s meeting.  He has brought together an all-party group of MEPs to support freedom of religion and belief – whatever your outlook on life, he said, religious or otherwise, you need the opportunity to reflect on it. The group is also in touch with the External Action Service, noting that it was slow to respond to the Arab Spring last year.

Amarjit Kaur (United Sikhs Belgium) who described the difficulties facing Sikh schoolchildren in Belgium in relation to religious dress.

Augustine Booth-Clibborn (Inter Faith Network UK) and Abdullah Faliq (The Cordoba Foundation)

Helene Egnell (Centre for Inter Faith Dialogue in the Diocese of Stockholm) and Hannah Wallace (consultant with the Tony Blair Faith Foundation).

Karim Chemlal (Federation of Islamic Organisations in Europe), Alan Murray (All Faiths and None) and Gérard Delfau (Egalité-Laïcité- Europe).

Sayed Ali Abbas (Majlis Ulema Europe), Hannah Wallace, Catriona Robertson and Tinci Singh (United Sikhs).

Exchanges between enorb member groups across Europe was a popular idea.  There’s no substitute for visiting a local network in another country to learn about the different contexts and challenges – and in return, welcoming them to, for example, London.

It was inspiring to meet so many practitioners from across Europe who are building communities of trust in their own countries and who are committed to working with each other on a European level.

The enorb website is now live and will carry photos and reports of the Brussels meeting soon.

*The words we use to describe each other haven’t found consensus yet – a Buddhist participant reminded us that many Buddhists are both religious and non-confessional.

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