Politics & Religion in BelgiumHow an escalating social issue took a dangerous turn Issue I
Table of contents    Summary                                                  page 3    Belgian Constitution, 1831        ...
How an escalating social issue took a dangerous turn in Belgium                                   SummaryO     n 28 March ...
The Congress column in Brussels 4
How an escalating social issue took a dangerous turn in Belgium                 Belgian Constitution, 1831Article 11   E  ...
Coincidence?      Synchronicity?    Coordinated effort?6
How an escalating social issue took a dangerous turn in Belgium    A     n old Belgian saying goes “When it rains in Paris...
“You don’t have    anything but sects    here, sects, sects...”    Julia Nyssens, head of ADIF (Association de Défense de ...
How an escalating social issue took a dangerous turn in BelgiumT   he original “synoptic table” which was made public when...
10
How an escalating social issue took a dangerous turn in Belgium    How the “sect list” has been used in Belgium           ...
Sociologists: 0Religious experts: 0                       Anti-sect groups: 6 12
How an escalating social issue took a dangerous turn in Belgium   What were the methods used by theParliamentary Inquiry a...
~~~o," O~""v~IrRë"                             r.~/              2                   S                       ""I;to!.     ...
How an escalating social issue took a dangerous turn in Belgium      A democratic and transparent process?     Hardly so –...
FECRIS’ members have     accumulated more     than 21 condemnations     over the last 15 years16
How an escalating social issue took a dangerous turn in Belgium                     Advice of CIAOSN on FECRIS    I   n 20...
18
How an escalating social issue took a dangerous turn in BelgiumIncoherence, inconsistency and discriminationOn 9 January 2...
They have said20
How an escalating social issue took a dangerous turn in Belgium“Contrary to what is believed, there is no list of sects or...
22
How an escalating social issue took a dangerous turn in Belgium       This situation cost the CIAOSN  and the Belgian Stat...
24
How an escalating social issue took a dangerous turn in BelgiumM    ajor social ruins, such as drugs, juvenile unemploymen...
When will real social problems   be tackled effectively?Cocaine: Every year 1.75 tons of cocaine is consumed in Belgium, w...
How an escalating social issue took a dangerous turn in BelgiumT   here are other urgent social problems in Belgium that d...
Ciaosn belgium-cap
Upcoming SlideShare
Loading in …5
×

Ciaosn belgium-cap

703 views

Published on

Politics & Religion in Belgium
How an escalating social issue took a dangerous turn

Published in: Spiritual, Business
0 Comments
0 Likes
Statistics
Notes
  • Be the first to comment

  • Be the first to like this

No Downloads
Views
Total views
703
On SlideShare
0
From Embeds
0
Number of Embeds
4
Actions
Shares
0
Downloads
4
Comments
0
Likes
0
Embeds 0
No embeds

No notes for slide

Ciaosn belgium-cap

  1. 1. Politics & Religion in BelgiumHow an escalating social issue took a dangerous turn Issue I
  2. 2. Table of contents Summary page 3 Belgian Constitution, 1831 page 5 Coincidence? Synchronicity? Coordinated effort? page 6 The growth of the “sect list” page 9 How the “sect list” has been used in Belgium page 11 (and France) What were the methods used by the Parliamentary page 13 Inquiry and Working Group? A democratic and transparent process? page 15 Hardly so - a rather embarassing chapter Advice of CIAOSN on FECRIS page 17 Incoherence, inconsistency and discrimination page 19 They have said page 20 This situation cost the CIAOSN and the Belgian State page 23 several convictions When real social problems will be tackled effectively? page 262
  3. 3. How an escalating social issue took a dangerous turn in Belgium SummaryO n 28 March 1996 an inquiry commission was created to look into the possible dangers of sects in Belgium, issuing its 670-page report on 28 April 1997.The report included as an annex an alphabetical list of 189 groups, including commentary,which has become a de facto “sect list”.The Parliament refused to adopt the report as such and only voted to accept theconclusions and recommendations (19 pages). Despite this disavowal, the governmentfound it appropriate to publish the whole report, including the controversial list.Following this report, in 1998, a Federal “Observatory on Sects”, formally knownas the Center for Information and Advice on Harmful Sectarian Organizations(CIAOSN) was created under the authority of the Ministry of Justice.The Observatory, far from being the independent and impartial body that the lawmandates, is a primary source of misinformation and intolerance towards religiousminorities in Belgium.On 21 April 2004 a Parliamentary Working Group on Sects was formed to determinethe extent that the 1997 Parliamentary inquiry commission’s recommendations on“sects” had been implemented. It presented its report to the Parliament, which adoptedthe recommendations in its Plenary Session on 30 March 2006.The Working Group repeated, even worsened, the serious methodological errorscontained in the 1997 Report, so compounding the already existing problem.The individuals who appeared before the Working Group consisted exclusively ofBelgian government intelligence, law enforcement and sect observatory officials.No religious experts, human rights experts nor sociologists were invited to theWorking Group hearings. No religious leaders, representatives of interfaith groups,nor representatives of the religious communities derogatorily designated as “sects”were invited. No Working Group hearings were open to the public, allowing forpublic debate and scrutiny and for government transparency regarding its policy ofminority religious freedom and tolerance. Instead, the hearings were conducted behindclosed doors.Twelve years after the establishment of the “Observatory on Sects”, it is time to drawsome conclusions and raise questions about the results of what is widely considered tobe, at least beyond the Belgian borders, an out of proportion and discriminatory seriesof measures that target religious organizations, violating international human rightstreaties ratified by Belgium.Meanwhile, serious problems affecting Belgian youth and society, such as drug abuse,juvenile unemployment, suicide and crime rates, have not been the subject of anyparliamentary commission or working group… 3
  4. 4. The Congress column in Brussels 4
  5. 5. How an escalating social issue took a dangerous turn in Belgium Belgian Constitution, 1831Article 11 E njoyment of the rights and freedoms recognized for Belgians should be ensured without discrimination. To this end, laws anddecrees guarantee notably the rights and freedoms of ideological andphilosophical minorities. Article 19 F reedom of worship, public practice of the latter, as well as freedom to demonstrate one’s opinions on all matters, are guaranteed, exceptfor the repression of offences committed when using this freedom.R eading the Constitution, one might think that Freedom of Religion is well protected in Belgium. However, since the end of the 1990s religious minorities,often labeled as cults and sects, are the victims of various forms of discrimination.At the end of the 1990s the European Union, the Council of Europe and a number ofmember states looked into the issue of religious minorities, or “sects”.The position of eleven member states of the European Union was that “sects” do notharm the individual, the family, society or their democratic institutions to the point ofnecessitating the need to create new institutions or organizations to combat them, andthat in any case existing judicial systems could handle potential abuses.Unfortunately, four EU member states decided to take a different course of action:two German-speaking countries (Austria and Germany), a French-speaking country(France), and a linguistically and culturally mixed country (Belgium). 5
  6. 6. Coincidence? Synchronicity? Coordinated effort?6
  7. 7. How an escalating social issue took a dangerous turn in Belgium A n old Belgian saying goes “When it rains in Paris, raindrops fall in Brussels.” This is certainly applicable to a sudden interest of the governmental and legislative institutions, both in France and Belgium, to investigate the activities of religious minorities, cults and sects labeled as dangerous: France Belgium Parliamentary Commission 1995 1996 Observatory 1996 1998 However, Belgium outperformed France: The Parliamentary Inquiry and Working Group met seventy-four times (74) in Brussels, the French inquiry ran for 20 meetings. Belgium also saw bigger: France issued a list of 173 organizations to be watched, but: Belgium initially came up with a “synoptic table” of 189 organizations that became a de facto “black list”, despite unofficial denials and attempts to minimize its impact. France retracted its list...* Belgium’s list is still growing...* Journal Officiel de la République Française n˚126, circular of 27 May 2005 relative to the fight against sectarian abuses. 7
  8. 8. “You don’t have anything but sects here, sects, sects...” Julia Nyssens, head of ADIF (Association de Défense de l’Individu et de la Famille) and witness during the parliamentary commission, RTL-TVI, 18 September 20038
  9. 9. How an escalating social issue took a dangerous turn in BelgiumT he original “synoptic table” which was made public when attached to the Parliamentary Report of 1996, grew from 189 entries to a secret list of 700+groups in 2006, according to a report of the CIAOSN.What about today? Today even the number of entries on the list is not public,effectively creating a “Black List”, an intolerable discrimination against religiousminorities.The growth of the “sect list” 900 ? 597 700+ 189 1997 2006 2010 9
  10. 10. 10
  11. 11. How an escalating social issue took a dangerous turn in Belgium How the “sect list” has been used in Belgium (and France) “Before being member of the Observatory, I was parliamentary assistant for Mr. Duquesne during the inquiry commission. As such, I contributed to establishing what was called ‘the synoptic table’.” Henri de Cordes, president of the CIAOSN, proceedings of the first Belgian colloquium of help to sect victims, 30 October 1999 “The media also play a role: they should inform the public, especially the youngsters.” Hilde Vautmans, member of the Working Group on Sects, during the presentation of its report, 30 March 2006 F ollowing publication of the parliamentary reports and the “lists of sects,” many cases of intolerance and discrimination in the public and private sectors were reported in France and in Belgium. Complaints from French and Belgian individuals belonging to the blacklisted groups have steadily increased and include loss of jobs or promotions, dismissals, libel, slander, victimization in the neighborhood, at the workplace and at school, damage to individuals’ reputation, loss of visitation rights or child custody in divorce settlements, inability to rent facilities for religious ceremonies or for meetings, unilateral and unfounded closure of bank accounts of “sects” or of individuals affiliated with them, humanitarian agencies’ refusal to accept donations from “sects,” denial of access to public display boards and police surveillance.* Apparently this is the expected result of the “informative role to be played by the media” after they have been fed with the black list of religious organizations in Belgium.* Human Rights Without Frontiers, “Religious freedom, intolerance, discrimination in the European Union, Belgium 2002 - 2003”. 11
  12. 12. Sociologists: 0Religious experts: 0 Anti-sect groups: 6 12
  13. 13. How an escalating social issue took a dangerous turn in Belgium What were the methods used by theParliamentary Inquiry and Working Group?O ne could reasonably think that the members of these two undertakings would be chosen from legislators andeminent religious and sociological experts.But were they? Experts Parliamentary Inquiry Working group Government 3 3 Magistracy, Police Intelligence, Administration 10 10 Academics 6 0 Media 6 0 Anti-sect groups 6 0 Members of religious organizations 8 0 Sociologists 0 0 Religious experts 0 0 A ll the other witnesses were heard behind closed doors, sometimes by only a few members refute their potentially sectarian character, but they were not informed of the accusations raised of the commission and without the against them during the public and others’ knowledge. The commission non-public hearings. They could sent a letter to seventy-one of the therefore not defend themselves. associations mentioned by various The other 118 movements that were state agencies as suspected of being listed did not get such an invitation harmful to society or the individual. and were consequently not able to The letter asked the groups to present a summary of their activities describe their objectives and to or to contest any accusations. 13
  14. 14. ~~~o," O~""v~IrRë" r.~/ 2 S ""I;to!. J9">t:1.J9,I J997 O€"VNE. ZI7-rING 19<160-1997(_) <f8 It. .J0.97.. 14
  15. 15. How an escalating social issue took a dangerous turn in Belgium A democratic and transparent process? Hardly so – a rather embarrassing chapter: “The Commission has indeed been very negligent and biased in its work. That is why I and a substantial majority of my colleagues at the CVP * have refused to adopt the report of activities, have rejected the famous list and have only adopted the general lines of the recommendations.” Dr. Jan Van Erps, member of the House of Representatives, 1997 “[…] The commission issued its report, but I can’t adopt it personally as it goes well beyond and opens horizons which, as a democrat, concern me.” Hervé Hasquin, discussion of the report of the Working Group on Sects, 30 March 2006 “The CIAOSN was established in 1998 as a result of the ill fame parliamentary investigation commission that is put on record as the worst parliamentary investigation commission ever.” Tertio, 30 april 2008 “The other religious groups are to be watched, prosecuted, even exterminated without anything in their social behavior or their beliefs to predispose them to this particular fate. It is the political power that decides the fate of one and all and legislates accordingly. The list of ‘harmful’ sects and public subsidies to major religions (more or less official according to different countries) are to be understood in the frame of this logic.” Anne Morelli, deputy director of the Centre interdisciplinaire d’étude des religions et de la laïcité, Université Libre de Bruxelles, october 2008* CVP : Christelijke Volkspartij, Flemish political party which, in 2001, was renamed CD&V (Christen- Democratisch en Vlaams). 15
  16. 16. FECRIS’ members have accumulated more than 21 condemnations over the last 15 years16
  17. 17. How an escalating social issue took a dangerous turn in Belgium Advice of CIAOSN on FECRIS I n 2000 the CIAOSN issued an opinion on the FECRIS (European Federation of Centres of Research and Information on Sectarianism): “The advice was positive and I am delighted about it especially as I believed that in the frame of the very long procedure before the Council of Europe, this advice contributed to convincing the Council of Europe’s officials to grant FECRIS consultative status.” Henri de Cordes, president of the CIAOSN, proceedings of the conference “The Internationalization of cults: a danger to human rights in Europe?”, 25 March 2006 What FECRIS really is? F ECRIS is a collection of national groups that have banded together under a European umbrella; it has had the reputation, since its inception in 1994, of being extremely intolerant towards religious minorities. In fact before FECRIS even came into existence, its member groups were already active in illegal actions. In the past FECRIS group members have been involved in the forcible kidnapping of members of other faiths in order to try to get them to change their views. There have been six convictions for these offences between 1987 and 1997. FECRIS’ members have accumulated over 21 condemnations over the last 15 years*, all relating to religious intolerance. Its President until early 2009, Friedrich Griess, has been convicted eight times for defamation of a Christian group (Norwegian Movement). The most recent decision was in 2004. Were these the facts that persuaded the President of the CIAOSN to issue a “positive advice” about FECRIS?* European Law Centre, public hearing on discrimination and intolerance, 27 June 2005, Strasbourg 17
  18. 18. 18
  19. 19. How an escalating social issue took a dangerous turn in BelgiumIncoherence, inconsistency and discriminationOn 9 January 2002, Eric Brasseur, director of the CIAOSN,announced to the newspaper La Libre Belgique:“No recent information allows us to draw negative conclusions and there is nothingrelevant as far as harmful behavior is concerned [about Hare Krishna].”On the same day, his colleague Henri de Cordes was talking of theHare Krishna movement to the RTBF, in a quite conflicting way:“The practice of repeating mantras is known in psychology as a technique that can bringabout semi-trance states that allow, in certain cases, greater control of the individual byleaders of the movement.”“We respect individual freedom, but the only valid freedom is that of people wellinformed of their movement’s practices.” Henri de Cordes, La Libre Belgique, 7 June 2008“I’m not at all against religion and I have no problem with them existing, but we areinterested that they are not selling wind and mentally manipulating people.” Luc Willems, former rapporteur of the inquiry commission on sects, St. Petersburg Times, 4 November 2007“We can compare it [the Observatory] to a smoking-addiction prevention association:the risks are estimated; in principle everybody can smoke, the risks are known, everyonetakes a position according to the risks they know or don’t know and that they are ready toassume. In the case of the Center, it’s a bit the same thing […]” Henri de Cordes, interviewed by the RTBF, 30 November 2001 19
  20. 20. They have said20
  21. 21. How an escalating social issue took a dangerous turn in Belgium“Contrary to what is believed, there is no list of sects or sectarian movements.” Eric Brasseur, Vers L’Avenir, 3 November 2007“There were absolutely no consequences for organizations mentioned on the list.” Henri de Cordes, website of Het Laatste Nieuws, 4 September 2007“Paradoxically, the ‘list’ contained in the report and which has given rise to extensivecontroversy, continues to be of interest to those who use it in an attempt to convince othersthat Belgium is a country of religious discrimination that conducts a ‘witch hunt’ againstminority religions.” Henri de Cordes, Le Soir, 3 May 2007“All in all, I would say that this story is a bit like vampire stories: vampires move aboutat night, and when a ray of light appears, they vanish. The fact that this table sheds lightbothers a lot of people.” Henri de Cordes, proceedings of the first Belgian colloquium of help to sect victims, 30 October 1999“Very particular attention will have to be given to movements where the founder isbecoming advanced in years, in which case we can foresee succession conflicts.” Henri de Cordes, Le Journal Dimanche, 30 October 2005“According to the Center of Information and Advice on Harmful Sectarian Organizations(CIAOSN), the transcendental meditation technique praised by this group brings aboutin their followers a change in personality (‘depersonalization’ effect), a decrease of socialrelations and the appearance of psychological disorders (depression, hallucinations,nervousness).” André Frédéric, president of the Working Group on Sects, 28 October 2004 21
  22. 22. 22
  23. 23. How an escalating social issue took a dangerous turn in Belgium This situation cost the CIAOSN and the Belgian State several convictions• In June 2005 a Brussels appellate court judge ruled that the Church of the Kingdom of God had suffered damage by appearing in the parliamentary report of sectarian organizations.• In April 2006 the Brussels Court of Appeal ruled that the Belgian Francophone community government must cease circulating a flyer in which Anthroposophy was labeled a dangerous cult.• On 12 June 2006 the Brussels Court of Appeal found that the Observatory provided advice regarding Sahaja Yoga on its website that lacked accuracy and objectivity when it classified the movement as a dangerous cult and ignored information provided by Sahaja Yoga, including decisions to the contrary in legal cases in other jurisdictions.• In December 2006, the Brussels Court of Appeal ruled that the Interior Minister had wrongly denied a visa to Sun Myung Moon, founder of the Unification Church. The court ordered the Immigration Office to issue a visa, allowing Mr. Moon to attend a rally in the country.• The latest loss for CIAOSN came in February 2008, when the case of Sahaja Yoga was again brought up. A Belgian court instructed the State to pay €1,500 to Sahaja Yoga for damages; it was also ordered to issue a statement in every publication in which the concerned negative advice appeared, that the CIAOSN did not engage in the necessary care and impartiality, and that its motivation was faulty. The State has announced that they will appeal the decision. In the affair of the Sahaja Yoga, the Tribunal specified: “As a public institution, the C.I.A.O.S.N. must operate objectively, not only in using arguments against, but also by citing all the elements that balance this.” and “[…] the C.I.A.O.S.N. did not act with the needed care and objectivity, therefore the advice was insufficiently motivated.” 23
  24. 24. 24
  25. 25. How an escalating social issue took a dangerous turn in BelgiumM ajor social ruins, such as drugs, juvenile unemployment, suicide or juvenile crime, have never been addressed by aparliamentary commission or a working group.On “sects” there has been:• A pa rlia menta r y commission• A pa rlia menta r y work ing group• Te ns of law prop osals to ta rget religio u s g roups…In the face of this waste of public fundsIn the face of this waste of time of the MPsOne can ask oneself the question:WHO IS ORGANIZING SUCH A COMMOTION? 25
  26. 26. When will real social problems be tackled effectively?Cocaine: Every year 1.75 tons of cocaine is consumed in Belgium, which represents about50,000 doses every day. Source: Study of the Universities of Liege and AntwerpCrack/Cocaine, Heroine, Ecstasy: 4% of youngsters between 12 and 17 years old usedonce one of those drugs, while 2% used it multiple times. Crack/cocaine, heroine andecstasy abuse had doubled compared to 2007. Source: Report of the CRIOC, February 201026
  27. 27. How an escalating social issue took a dangerous turn in BelgiumT here are other urgent social problems in Belgium that deserve the creation of a parliamentary inquiry commission:DrugsIllicit drugs are causing 29 deaths every year in the Brussels Region.Cannabis: 30% of 15/16 years old students in Belgium have smoked cannabis, according the2009 report of the International Narcotic Control Board (INCB).Amphetamine: According to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC),Belgium is the main country exporting amphetamine and substances belonging to theMDMA group, together with the Netherlands. Source: Report of Benoit Cerexhe, Minister of Health, Brussels Capital RegionSuicideEvery year in Belgium, more than 2,000 people take their own life. Six a day. Belgium,with a suicide rate estimated at 23 for every 100,000 inhabitants is well above the worldaverage (14.5 for 100,000 inhabitants in Belgium, 8.3 in The Netherlands). Suicide is thefirst “external cause of death”. It exceeds by far the number of deaths by road accidents, eventhough suicides are sometimes disguised as being road accidents. Source: Le Centre de Prévention du Suicide asbl (Suicide Prevention Centre); 2010 data from the WHOJuvenile unemploymentIn Belgium, more than 11% of the working population is looking for a job. Furthermore, theyouth unemployment rate is particularly alarming (over 20%) with Brussels reaching 35%, andeven 44% in some areas such as Molenbeek, far above the European average (14.6%). 221,183young people between 18 and 24 (out of 900,000) have no secondary school diploma, while57,481 have no diploma, attend no school and have no job. Source: SPF Emploi (Employment Federal Public Service), 2008; King Boudewijn Foundation, 2009Juvenile crimeMore and more delinquent behavior (almost half ) has been re-classified as being a consequence ofa “Problematic Educational Situation” and as such disappeared from criminal statistics in 2008.Furthermore, 2,596 minors between 15-19 years old were placed in “closed institutions” during2007. Even this number is a poor estimation of the problem, because of acute “space” shortage inthese institutions. Also 68% of referrals to the Juvenile Judge are classified without any further action.Conference “Juvenile delinquency: looking for appropriate answers”, Brussels, 23-24 March 2009 27

×