2017 was a busy year for the EPRID platform; this is an overview of all EPRID activities from February 2017 – February 2018.
17 February 2017: EPRID held its Annual General Meeting. Special guests included Dr. Ján Figel, EU Special Envoy on FoRB, Ambassador Jackie Wollcot and Elizabeth Cassidy of the US International Commission on Religious Freedom (USCIRF);
23 March 2017: EPRID sent an Open Letter to Donald Tusk, Jean-Claude Junker, VP/HR Federica Mogherini and Commissioner Neven Mimica urging the renewal and strengthening of the EU Special Envoy mandate (both structurally and financially): http://www.eprid.eu/eprid-urges-eu-to-continue-and-strengthen-the-mandate-of-the-eu-special-envoy-on-freedom-of-religion-or-belief/. In April 2017, the mandate was renewed.
30 March 2017: EPRID held a general meeting to discuss strategies and current affairs.
25 April 2017: EPRID members Rachel Bayani (BIC) and Elizabeta Kitanovic (CEC) spoke at a Conference at the EP on “Best practices: How religious and belief communities reach out to each other in words and deeds”. The meeting was hosted by the EP Intergroup on FoRB’s Co-chair Dennis De Jong, with keynote speech by Dr. Ahmed Shaheed, UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief: http://www.eprid.eu/eprid-shares-best-practices-at-ep-conference-on-forb/
May 2017: Liviu Olteanu (AIDLR) asked EPRID to take a stand on the banning of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Russia. Several EPRID members supported the idea. Liviu drafted a letter to President Putin asking for EPRID’s endorsement. Some members felt it was not a good precedent to ask political powers to intervene in court decisions. As a result, EPRID developed a “Rapid Response Mechanism” (temporary name) to enable the platform to react swiftly to such issues and provide an “expert” view with data and analysis that could be used by other organisations.
19 June 2017: EPRID was invited by EEAS to conduct a training session for diplomats on FoRB. This is the third year running that EEAS has solicited EPRID’s input. Susan Kerr (CSW) made a PowerPoint presentation on “What is FoRB” and Penelope Faulkner (Quê Me) led an interactive session with the diplomats working on EPRID’s book of case studies, assisted by EPRID members Rachel Bayani (BIC), Francesco De Lillo (LDS Church), Hans Noot (HRWF) and Arie de Pater (EEA).
21 June 2017: BoC members Arie de Pater and Penelope Faulkner met Fabrizio Capogrosso, member of cabinet of EP President Tajani concerned with inter-religious issues to present EPRID’s work and discuss possibilities for cooperation and exchange.
27 June 2017: EPRID held a general meeting to discuss ongoing business.
6 September 2017: EPRID held a Conference at the EP on “Religion, Business and Human Rights” hosted by MEP Ramon Tremosa i Balcels. Speakers included Dr Brian Grim, President of the Religious Freedom & Business Foundation (USA), Dr Ján Figel, Amarjit Singh, Ernst & Young LLP, Michael Wakelin, University of Cambridge and Merete Bilde, EEAS. The conference, preceded by a lunch at the EP Restaurant, was very well attended by members of the business community, MEPs and staff, academics and human rights defenders. The event was funded by Quê Me: Vietnam Committee on Human Rights, which spent much time over the summer with invaluable help from Arie de Pater, in preparing it. Susan Kerr provided closing remarks. The speakers’ contributions were all extremely interesting and high quality and EPRID’s intent is to transcribe and publish them when possible.
23 November 2017: Susan Kerr, Amy Shepherd (CSW), Penelope Faulkner and Arie de Pater met with EP Vice-President Mairead McGuinness and her advisor Fearghas O’Béara to discuss EPRID’s project to celebrate the 5th Anniversary of the Guidelines by holding an EU FoRB Day in June 2018. Ms. McGuinness was very supportive of the idea.
23 November 2017: EPRID held a general meeting to discuss ongoing business.
5-6 December 2017: Although EPRID was not represented nominally, EPRID members played a prominent role in FoRB-related activities at the EU-NGO Forum. CSW and Quê Me moderated two panels on “Addressing state and social intolerance towards religious, belief or ideological diversity in Asia”. Many other EPRID members were present.
22 December 2017: EPRID issued an end-of-year statement on Prisoners of Conscience, highlighting the cases of prisoners detained for the peaceful expression of their religious or non-religious beliefs: http://www.eprid.eu/eprid-statement-on-prisoners-of-conscience/
January 2018: EPRID was contacted by Katherine Cash of NORFORB, a Scandinavia-based learning platform on FoRB, and invited to become an associate member of their platform. Katherine will be addressing EPRID’s 2018 AGM by Skype to explain the project.
30 January 2018: EPRID BoC members Amy Shepherd, Penelope Faulkner and Holly Smith (BIC) met Mr. Mihail Bozhkov, Human Rights officer at the Bulgarian Permanent Mission to the EU, to seek the support of the Bulgarian Council Presidency for the EU Day on FoRB and other EPRID activities. The same day, they also met Fearghas O’Béara, who gave some very useful advice about the EU FoRB Day.
19 February 2018: Many EPRID members (Elizabeta, Holly, Francesco, Arie and Amy) took part in an exchange of views on ways to strengthen the implementation on EU Guidelines on Freedom of religion or belief organised by the EEAS.