Churches’ Voice on Human Rights – Training Course in Palermo

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source: CSC CEC

Palermo Italy – from the 30 October until the 1 November participants and speakers from various European Churches and associations were guests in the Waldensian diaconal centre “la noce” in Palermo (Sicily). The Church and Society Commission of the Conference of European Churches organized a training course on the very volatile issue of social, economic and cultural rights in the euromediterranean region.

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In the first sessions the presentations addressed current Human Rights challenges. The Lampedusa tragedy and refugees arriving not only in Italy but also in Greece and other countries in the Euromed region were one focus. Especially Ms Vivi Akapo, coming from Togo and representing the All Africa Conference of Churches enriched the discussions with her perspective. An unusual but not less valuable contribution for a Church event was delivered by two NATO representatives. They also presented what NATO calls the comprehensive approach and is supposed to implement humanitarian and social aspects in military activities. Furthermore they encouraged the audience to get involved and qualify the existing interaction between NATO and NGOs. For cooperation between NATO and Churches there might still be a long way to go. But convergence and dialogue may be worth trying.

On the second day Prof Dr Vassiliki Stathokosta (Church of Greece) and Rev. Luca Baratto (Federation of Protestant Churches in Italy) drew the link between Human Rights and the Bible in their presentations and introduced the transition to Churches’ responsibility and what Churches can and must do. Dr Mohammed Amin Al-Midani (Arab Centre for International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights Education) explained the difference between promoting and protecting Human Rights and presented the different traditions in Europe, Africa and the Middle East. Mr Klaus Lörcher who is also a lawyer specialised on fundamental social rights, focused on European Instruments and how Churches can make use of them. The audience gained from his many years of experiences in working with trade unions and the European Committee of Social Rights. He was also able to tell details and answer questions about CECs complaint before the committee.

More concrete were the presentations about existing approaches in churches. Especially Ms Carolin Bueno Calvo’s speech about the current situation of protestant churches in Spain and their efforts with regard to religious freedom and equality was very inspiring.

One special guest was the Mayor of Palermo Prof Leoluca Orlando

In future it must be seen how the Church and Society Commission (CSC) will proceed further with the gained knowledge. Especially in respect of the reforms, agreed on in Budapest, a final decision about the prospective existence of the Commission in general is lacking.

Last year CSC published a booklet on present challenges and training materials. This might be also useful in EYCE’s contexts.

For EYCE Lisa Schneider (ExCo) took part in the event. It was also a good occasion to get in touch with representatives as this was also a request of the GM to strengthen the continuous contact with Churches and Church networks. Traditionally EYCE’s contribution was very welcome and we would like to express our gratitude for the invitation.