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ICC Note: In a positive development for the advancement of greater religious freedom around the world, the European Union has adopted new guidelines on protecting and promoting religious freedom. Although it may seem an unimportant development to some, the vast majority of the world’s population lives with either government restrictions or social hostility towards them on the basis of their faith. Millions of Christians are unable to practice their faith freely or without fear of persecution in nations like China, Pakistan, and Saudi Arabia. Each step taken by Western and other governments towards the promotion of greater religious freedom is a step that may help to reduce the persecution of Christians globally. 
6/24/2013 Belgium (CSW) – Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) welcomes today’s decision by European Union (EU) Foreign Ministers in Brussels to adopt Guidelines on Freedom of Religion or Belief, fulfilling a commitment that was made in the EU Human Rights Strategy one year ago.
As the tenth set of EU human rights Guidelines, the document outlines priority areas and operational tools for the promotion of religious freedom, with the aim of equipping the EU to support individuals and communities who face infringements to this right, addressing violations when they occur and preventing future incidents. As the Guidelines are public, they can also serve as a tool for third parties to hold the EU to account on its own commitments.
During the Swedish EU Presidency in 2009, the EU adopted its first Council conclusions on Freedom of Religion or Belief, which were followed by Conclusions in 2011 as a response to violent incidents on religious grounds in the Middle East and Africa. Following the Arab Uprisings, questions of religion or belief in authoritarian regimes, fragile states and societies in transition came to the fore with an explicit need for the EU to develop policy on how to respond to these complex issues and developments.
In adopting the Guidelines, the EU acknowledges that religious freedom violations, committed by state and non-state actors alike, are widespread and complex, affecting societies and individuals everywhere, including in Europe. It also clarifies the EU’s own position towards religion or belief, not aligning itself with any specific view or conviction, but upholding the right of the individual to choose and change, adopt or abandon a conviction according to one’s conscience.

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