Written by Nayla Barakat
Manama, May 31 (BNA) The first conference between the European Union and Bahrain, held in Manama, is a step forward for the two blocs’ commitment to peaceful coexistence and religious harmony in a rapidly changing world.
This was the gist of the opening speech of EU Ambassador to Bahrain Patrick Simonet during the EU-Bahrain Conference held under the theme “Expanding the Tent: Freedom of Religion and Belief”.
The EU-Bahrain high-level conference entitled “Expanding the Tent: Freedom of Religion and Belief” (FORB) is organized as part of an important EU-GCC dialogue program aimed at enhancing mutual understanding and cooperation in the fields. of coexistence through freedom of religion and belief.”
FORB is an essential component of the human resources framework, at the core of the values on which the European Union was built, after centuries of war and hatred between religious communities.
Europe, and in particular the European Union, has learned the hard way that FORB is an essential part of peaceful, free and prosperous societies.
“We have welcomed with enthusiasm the readiness of the Kingdom of Bahrain to address FORB as an essential component of the dialogue program between the European Union and the Gulf Cooperation Council,” Simonet said.
“It comes at an interesting time, when we will see many countries in the region taking some positive steps forward in expanding FORB in its national jurisdiction. But it has come as no surprise to us that the Kingdom of Bahrain was the first, nor hopefully the only one, to move forward proactively on this issue difficult and striving to develop cooperation with the European Union.
“In fact, Bahrain was the first Arab country to write in its constitution the principle of freedom of conscience, before Iraq (2005) and Tunisia (2014). It is clear that Bahrain’s rich history has played a role in this important development.
“We know that the topic is still difficult in many parts of the world, not least in the region, when facing difficulties and uncertainties in the world (Covid-19, changing poles of power on the global stage, disruption of supply chains, increasing realization of the fragility of life…) is pushing Many people seek protection in their close communities, including religious, and in prepackaged ideologies, including religious ones as well.
This is at a time when all institutional religions face challenges from many sides and difficulties in responding to the expectations of their adherents – leading to more anxiety and identity challenges from within.
He added that this conference is a great opportunity to bring together experts, academics, policy makers, youth and younger people from the EU and Bahrain to think together about the role of FORB.
“The conference will also address future challenges and what we can all do to strengthen our actions, programmes, political pledges and financing plans or even develop new tools that can make the Kingdom of Bahrain and the European Union stronger allies in support of freedom of religion. And faith – internally, because we all have our challenges, not least in Europe, But also on the world stage.
“Our European history has shown, since the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948, which enshrined FORB, that nothing is ever won. There are groups, currents, in our societies that think FORB is a luxury we should not afford, or what is Worse, it burdens our development, our opportunities to seek unification, and restricts our group and society to people who are like us.”
He added that FORB is increasingly becoming an area of active interest and participation of the EU, both internally and externally, as this will be explained during this conference by academics, politicians and decision-makers from the EU.
“I will be following the conversation extensively and will draw some conclusions tomorrow based on the fruitful and rich exchanges that the audience promises, seeing a high level of expertise, dedication and commitment at all levels – from the grassroots to the top,” he said. .