On 9 and 10 November 2015, staff of member equality bodies joined hosts Equinet and the Equality and the Human Rights Commission in London for a capacity building seminar entitlted "A question of faith. Religion and belief in the work of equality bodies".
Several reports highlight the worrying rise of anti-Semitism and anti-Muslim incidents in Europe in recent years. In particular, the attacks in Brussels, Paris and Copenhagen had a profound impact on religious communities and triggered the need for collective responses at national and European levels to combat religious hatred and discrimination on the ground of religion and belief, and effectively enforce the right to freedom of religion.
As part of this collective response, in October 2015, the first Annual Colloquium on Fundamental Rights organised by the European Commission focused on “Tolerance and respect: preventing and combating anti-Semitic and anti-Muslim hatred in Europe”. (For Equinet participation and the Colloquium Conclusions, see here.)
The 2011 report from Equinet’s Equality Law Working Group “A question of faith: religion and belief in Europe” highlighted the sensitivity and the difficulty in dealing with cases related to religion and belief discrimination. As a complement to this legal analysis, in Autumn 2015, Equinet’s Policy Formation Working Group will publish a Perspective on the work and experience of equality bodies on the ground of religion and belief. The Perspective will serve as one of the bases for discussion at the upcoming Equinet Seminar.
The seminar aimed to take stock of legal and political developments, as well as remaining challenges in ensuring freedom of religion and combating religious or faith-based discrimination at European and national levels. It analysed the role of and challenges for equality bodies in addressing issues of religion and belief by discussing good practices in the use of their legal, research, communication and promotional functions.
The seminar built on previous work by Equinet in this field, notably on publications by its legal and policy formation working groups, and was hosted by the Equality and Human Rights Commission (UK).
In particular, the seminar aimed to:
- Update equality bodies staff members on recent European developments related to religion and belief
- Build capacity of equality bodies staff members and strengthen their skills in combating discrimination on the ground of religion and belief by:
- Facilitating the exchange of good practices
- Sharing and discussing main conclusions of the upcoming Equinet Perspective on religion and belief with all Equinet members
- Initiating discussions on challenges encountered by equality bodies in this area
- Welcome and opening by Equinet (Evelyn Collins, Chair of Equinet, Chief Executive of the Equality Commission for Northern Ireland)
- Opening address by EHRC (Baroness Onora O’Neill, Chair of the Equality and Human Rights Commission, Great Britain)
- Keynote address (Prof. Isabelle Rorive, Université libre de Bruxelles)
SESSION 1 - The European legal and policy framework for discrimination on the ground of religion or belief
Chair: Evelyn Collins, Equality Commission for Northern Ireland
SESSION 2 - Equality Bodies’ strategies to address discrimination on the ground of religion or belief
Chair: Tamás Kádár, Head of Legal and Policy, Equinet Secretariat
WORKSHOP 1 - Developing strategies to address discrimination on the ground of religion or belief
- Engaging with employers and companies (Facilitated by Sue Coe, Equality and Human Rights Commission, Great-Britain)
- Contributing to legislative change (Facilitated by Nikolina Patalen, Office of the Ombudsman, Croatia)
- Communicating on religious diversity (Facilitated by Katrine G. Pettersen and Maj-Christel Skramstad, Equality and Anti-Discrimination Ombud, Norway)
- Legal advocacy and strategic litigation (Facilitated by Imane El Morabet, Interfederal Centre for Equal Opportunities, Belgium)
SESSION 3 - Multiple discrimination and conflict with other grounds
Chair: Imane El Morabet, Legal Advisor, Interfederal Centre for Equal Opportunities, Belgium
- Multiple discrimination, intersectionality and conflicts with other grounds (Erica Howard, Associate Professor, Middlesex University London)
- Presentation of the findings of the 2012 Equinet Legal Report on religion and belief (Jayne Hardwick, Equality and Human Rights Commission, Great Britain, and moderator of Equinet Equality Law Working Group)
- Presentation of the findings of the 2015 Equinet Perspective on religion and belief (Zuzana Pavlíčková, Slovak National Centre for Human Rights and member of Equinet Policy Formation Working Group)
- The gender equality perspective: women and discrimination on the ground of religion or belief (Julie Pascoët, Policy Officer, European Network against Racism)
- Sexual orientation and gender identity perspective : LGBTI and discrimination on the ground of religion or belief (Alan Murray, President, European Network of Religion and Belief)
WORKSHOP 2 - Addressing multiple discrimination and conflict with other grounds
- Litigation and conflicts of rights – the Lee v Ashers Baking Co Ltd “Cake” Case (Facilitated by Anne McKernan, Director Legal Services, Equality Commission for Northern Ireland)
- Intersection of religion or belief with gender equality (Facilitated by Julie Pascoët, Policy Officer, European Network against Racism)
- Intersection of religion or belief with sexual orientation and gender identity discrimination (Facilitated by Alan Murray, Director of European Network of Religion and Belief)
- Rebecca Hilsenrath, Interim Chief Executive, Equality and Human Rights Commission, Great Britain
- Anne Gaspard, Equinet Executive Director
Download the agenda of the seminar here:
- Seminar Agenda
Download the summary of the seminar here:
- Summary seminar