Saturday, September 08, 2007

Berlin Declaration “a victory for Secularism”

reposted from

Roy Brown, ex President of the IHEU came to talk to Dorset Humanists today 8th September 2007 about the Brussels Declaration and Political Islam in Europe.

Berlin Declaration “a victory for Secularism”

"The Berlin Declaration is a victory for Secularism in Europe" said Roy Brown, coordinator of the Vision for Europe campaign, speaking from London last night. "The text, intended to pave the way for a new draft of the European constitution, emphasises the centrality of the individual, our ‘inalienable rights’ and the ‘inviolable dignity’ of the individual.

The Declaration contains no reference to God, religion, or to Europe’s supposed Christian heritage but clearly reflects the shared values expressed in the Brussels Declaration
launched by our campaign last month at the European Parliament. We congratulate the German chancellor Angela Merkel and our European colleagues for this outcome and we thank everyone who worked so hard for this welcome result.”

The victory for Secularism had seemed unlikely last Autumn when, following a meeting with the pope, the German Chancellor announced plans to revive the stalled project for a European constitution ‘with God included’.

The text of the Berlin Declaration was the subject of sometimes bitter debate behind closed doors between those who wanted it to contain references to God and to Europe’s Christian heritage, and those who saw any such references as potentially divisive. In the event it appears that good sense, assisted by a strong campaign by Europe’s secularists has prevailed.

The secular fight-back centred around the Vision for Europe campaign and the Brussels Declaration, a one-page restatement of Europe’s shared values: the dignity and autonomy of the individual, equality of the sexes, human rights, democracy and the rule of law.
The Brussels Declaration, a joint project sponsored by the International Humanist and Ethical Union, the European Humanist Federation, Catholics for a Free Choice, and the European Parliament all-party group on Separation of Religion and Politics, received widespread support from politicians, academics, scientists, Nobel prize-winners, writers and journalists from across Europe.
It has been signed by more than 80 MEPs. The Brussels Declaration was presented to the representative of the German presidency at the European parliament on 27 February and was followed up by letters to all 27 European heads of government.

Sophie in’t Veld, chair of the parliamentary group, said "I am very pleased that the Berlin Declaration puts the dignity and rights of the individual center stage. Individual freedom, the right to one's own choices is the very essence of our European values. Freedom of religion is part of that individual freedom. Religious leaders of all corners of Europe are trying to turn the clock back by attacking individualism and the separation of church and state.”

David Pollock, president of the European Humanist Federation said: “This is a triumph for common sense but we cannot rest on our laurels. The forces of reaction will not have been silenced. Regardless of one’s personal views on the desirability of a new European constitution, all who oppose religious privilege must continue to work for a secular Europe”.

Here is the full text of the Berlin Declaration. (Translation courtesy of Times Online). The text of the Brussels Declaration is available on the Vision for Europe web site.

The Berlin Declaration

Europe was for centuries an Idea, a hope for freedom and understanding. This hope has been fulfilled. European unity has enabled us to live in peace and prosperity. It has created a community and overcome differences. Every member has helped to unite Europe and to strengthen democracy, the rule of law. We have to thank the love of freedom of the people of central and eastern Europe that Europe’s unnatural divisions are today finally overcome. With European unity, we have learned the lessons from our bloody conflicts and painful history. We live today together in a way that was never previously possible. We citizens of the European Union are united in our good fortune.

Section 1

In the European Union we realise our common ideals: for us the individual is central. His dignity is inviolable. His rights are inalienable. Women and men have equal rights. We strive for peace and freedom, for democracy and the rule of law, for mutual respect and responsibility, for prosperity and security, for tolerance and participation, justice and solidarity. We live and function together in the European Union in a unique way. This expresses itself in the democratic co-operation of member states and European institutions. The European Union is based on equal rights and solidarity. That is how we make possible a fair balance of interests between the member states. We uphold in the European Union the individuality and the diverse traditions of its members. The open frontiers and the lively diversity of languages, cultures and regions enrich us. Many goals cannot be achieved independently but only through common action. The European Union, the member states and their regions and local communities share these tasks.

Section 2

We face great challenges which cannot be confined to national frontiers. The European Union is our answer to them. Only together can we preserve our European social model in the future to the benefit of all citizens in the European Union. This European model unites economic success and social responsibility. The common market and the euro make us strong.

That is how we can shape the increasing worldwide interdependency of the economy and ever expanding competition on international markets according to our values. Europe’s wealth lies in the knowledge and abilities of its people; this is the key to growth, employment and social cohesion. We will jointly fight terrorism and organised crime. We will also defend our freedom and civil rights against their enemies. Racism and xenophobia must never again be given their chance. We will act to ensure that conflicts in the world are solved peacefully and that people do not become victims of war, terrorism or violence.

The European Union will promote freedom and development in the world. We want to push back poverty, hunger and disease. In doing so, we will continue to play a leading role. In energy policy and protection of the climate we want to go forward together and make our contribution to heading off the global threat of climate change.

Section 3

The European Union will continue to live in the future on the basis of its openness and the will of its members to strengthen together the inner development of the European Union. The European Union will continue to promote democracy, stability and prosperity beyond its frontiers. European unity has made reality out of a dream nurtured by earlier generations. Our history warns us that we have to protect this good fortune for future generations. We must continue to renew and update the political shape of Europe. That is why, 50 years after the signing of the Treaties of Rome, we are today united in the goal of achieving a renewed common foundation for the European Union before the elections to the European Parliament in 2009.

Because we know: Europe is our common future.

Click here to sign the Brussels Declaration

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