Speaking on a panel with representatives from other humanist and non-religious organisations, IHEU chief executive Gary McLelland welcomed the unique chance for dialogue with senior diplomats, civil servants and Members of the European Parliament. McLelland highlighted the progress that the European External Action Service has made in recognizing the importance of training its ambassadors on the human right to freedom of religion or belief, as well as the opportunities that IHEU has had to brief the Special Envoy for Freedom of Religion or Belief outside the EU, Jan Figel.
McLelland gave an overview of the current persecution affecting Humanists and atheists, including through the IHEU’s own assessment that 84 states currently exhibit ‘severe’ discrimination towards the non-religious.
McLelland also raised the cases of a number of individuals who had been targeted with violence and persecuted for so-called ‘blasphemy’.
Recognizing that Europe is one of the most progressive places in the world for ‘freedom of religion or belief’, McLelland gave an impassioned plea to the European Parliament to urge EU member states to repeal their Blasphemy laws, in order to show moral leadership to the rest of the world.
Speaking in Brussels after the event, Gary McLelland, Chief Executive of IHEU, commented:
“We should not pretend that blasphemy laws in Europe pose a serious risk to the lives of Humanists and atheists, as they do in other places around the world. However, in some states including Greece and Italy for example, there remains serious risk of prosecution.
“In Europe there is a chance to take the initiative, to show moral leadership for the rest of the world and urge all European Union member states to repeal their blasphemy laws.
“Let us do more than mere words, let us make this serious gesture to states around the world; blasphemy laws are not acceptable, and they should be repealed, now.”
For more information about the IHEU’s campaign against blasphemy laws, and details of the European countries (including EU member states) which still have blasphemy laws, see: end-blasphemy-laws.org/countries/europe/
The dialogue session was organised by IHEU’s sister organisation in Europe, the European Humanist Federation.