EP Intergroup on Religious Freedom: “We urge Von der Leyen to renew the mandate of the EU Special Envoy as soon as possible”

Note written by Peter van Dalen (The Netherlands) and Carlo Fidanza (Italy), Co-Chairs of  of the Intergroup on Freedom of Religion or Belief & Religious Tolerance in the European Parliament

Remarkable progress in Sudan and a sharp downward turn in India. That is what we as Co-Chairs of the Intergroup on Freedom of Religion or Belief and Religious Tolerance (FoRB & RT, www.religiousfreedom.eu) of the European Parliament – among other issues – conclude from the Annual Report 2020 of the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF, www.uscirf.gov). This recently released report is made by USCIRF, an independent US commission that monitors religious freedom violations globally, and makes policy recommendations to the US President, Secretary of State and the Congress.


“Like USCIRF we see in the field of religious freedom on the one hand signs of hope. Quite encouraging for instance is the new cooperation between the World Evangelical Alliance and important Muslim organizations in Indonesia. These organizations want to promote and intensify the dialogue between their religions to achieve better mutual understanding. Sudan stands out, demonstrating that new leadership with the will to change can quickly bring tangible improvements. Uzbekistan also made progress toward fulfilling the commitments it made to allow religious groups greater freedom. On the other hand there is a growth in worsening situations, in particular in several Islamic countries like Iran, and India.

China and North Korea

While China is considered in detail as ‘country of particular concern’ (CPC), the 2020 report comments upon the issue of Chinese influence on religious freedom internationally. Among others, it includes examples of Chinese diplomats opposing UN resolutions condemning human rights violations, China, as the permanent member to the UN Security Council, blocking a UN Security Council statement supporting the International Court of Justice’s ruling on Myanmar, or using economic and diplomatic leverage to discourage other countries from criticizing China before the UN.

We highly value the many USCIRF recommendations. The very critical remarks on China are true and important, but the report should also have spent equal words on North Korea. The international foundation Open Doors has put North Korea already for many years on top of its World Watch List. Since our Intergroup has a good working relation with USCIRF, we will continue working with them to promote religious freedom on our planet.

EU Special Envoy for Religious Freedom

The USCRIF-report will be a source for information – amongst others – for the US Ambassador at Large for International Freedom of Religion, Brownback. We as Co-Chairs of the EP-Intergroup strongly underline that the European Commission should continue a similar mandate, that of the EU Special Envoy on Religious Freedom. Since it is evident that, despite encouraging developments, there are still many challenges in the domain of freedom of religion or belief and religious tolerance. The mandate of the EU Special Envoy was not renewed when the Von der Leyen-Commission took up its work last December. We need more religious freedom around the globe, and we need to support encouraging developments. So we urge Commission-president Von der Leyen to renew the mandate of the EU Special Envoy as soon as possible.”


Peter van Dalen (The Netherlands) and Carlo Fidanza (Italy) are Members of the European Parliament. Both are Co-chairs of the Intergroup on Freedom of Religion or Belief & Religious Tolerance in the European Parliament.