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The International Humanist and Ethical Union (IHEU) has welcomed the Council of Europe’s move to include Humanist organizations in international dialogues that were previously restricted to religious groups.

IHEU  president Sonja Eggerickx, who has represented IHEU at dialogues at the Council of Europe, said, “Bringing those with different beliefs together for dialogue is an important part of the work of the Council of Europe and religious people are not the only people who need to be included in that dialogue. IHEU is recognised at the Council of Europe as the world union of Humanist and other non-religious organisations, and it is a real advance that the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council is now recommending that Humanists and Humanist organisations should be included in intercultural dialogue.”

The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe recommended that its 47 member governments “promote a genuine partnership for democracy and human rights between the Council of Europe, the religious institutions and Humanist and non-religious organizations”.  To this end they should “establish . . . a place for dialogue, a workspace between the Council of Europe and high-level representatives of religions and of non-denominational organisations, in order to place existing relations on a stable and formally recognised platform.”

IHEU and the European Humanist Federation (EHF) have campaigned for many years against the privileged position given to religious groups in the Council of Europe. Despite the Council’s bias towards religion over Humanism, the IHEU and the EHF have taken part in Council of Europe discussions on religious education and in conferences on intercultural dialogue.

Eggerickx said, “We call on the Council to accept the recommendation of its Parliamentary Assembly. By including Humanists in its discussions on matters of belief and morality, the Council of Europe can make a vital contribution to the development of a Europe that respects the freedom of conscience of all its citizens, irrespective of their religious identification.”

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