2012, Bulgaria, Rights - Religious, Human, Romania

Religious Pluralism and the European Court of Human Rights – Insights from the Cases of Bulgaria and Romania

Religious Pluralism and the European Court of Human Rights: Insights from the Cases of Bulgaria and Romania

Effie Fokas

Introduction to the European Court of Human Rights

The European Court of Human Rights (henceforth Court or ECtHR) is the court established by the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) in order to enforce the ECHR. The ECHR was adopted by the Council of Europe, whose primary aim is to create a common democratic and legal area throughout the European continent, ensuring respect for its fundamental values: human rights, democracy and the rule of law. The Council of Europe was established in Strasbourg in 1949 by 10 founding countries. Today it has 47 member states; all states in geographic Europe are members except Belarus’ (candidate status since 1993). The ECHR was adopted in 1950 and went into force in 1953. Ratification of the Convention is a prerequisite for joining the Council of Europe. The Court began operating in 1959. In 2008 it delivered its 10,000th judgment.

The ECHR has 59 articles and a number of protocols amending it. Of these, the most relevant to religious rights and freedoms are article 9, article 14, and article 2 of the first protocol.

Article 9: Freedom of Thought, Conscience and Religion

  1. Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief, in worship, teaching, practice and observance.
  2. Freedom to manifest one’s religion or beliefs shall be subject only to such limitations as are prescribed by law and are necessary in a democratic society in the interests of public safety, for the protection of public order, health or morals, or for the protection of the rights and freedoms of others.
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2012, Romania, Rural issues

Churches European Rural Network Visit to Romania, October 2011

Churches European Rural Network Visit to Romania, October 2011

Andrew Bowden

The Visit

We are extremely grateful to Rudi Job for masterminding our visit: without him it would not have been possible. Also, to a remarkable establishment, the Evangelical Academy at Sibiu, whose staff organised our programme. The Academy is very well equipped with excellent accommodation, and it is good to hear that it will host the next meeting of IRCA – Europe in 2012.

With the blessing of IRCA – Europe (International Rural Churches Association – Europe) – Rudi Job and I arranged for a small group to visit rural Romania between 20 and 25 October 2011.The visit was hosted by Dietrich Galter, President of the Academy of Neppendorf, Sibiu.

The programme included:

  • A journey to the ruins of the Cistercian monastery at Kerz (Carta) where we met the parish priest Michael Refer and a representative of the agricultural society.
  • A visit to the summer residence of Baron Samuel von Bruckenthal in Freck which is being restored as a tourist attraction.
  • A visit to Michelsberg to a visit to meet the entreprenneur Michael Henning. (Subject: My village before and now). Meal on a farm.
  • Journey to Mediasch, Pretai and Biertan to see various rural projects linked with local churches.
  • Visit to the old mill in Holzmengen (nice name: literally ‘loads of wood!’)
  • A meeting with Jochen Cotaru in respect of the development project at Harbachtal, the project Natura 2000, and certain individual projects in the village (for example restoration of the old village mill).
  • A visit to the service in a village parish (Grossau or Reussdoerfchen). After the service a conversation with representatives of the parish and their work with the Gipsy community.
  • A visit to the ‘shepherd-village’ Sibiel, the museum of icons ‘Zosim Oancea’.
  • A meeting with a representative of the regional agency for tourism, concentrating on possibilities for developing tourism in rural areas.
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2012, Romania

The Romanian Orthodox Church: Relations with the State and with Other Orthodox Churches

The Romanian Orthodox Church: Relations with the State and with other Orthodox Churches

Lucian Turcescu

In communist times the Romanian Orthodox Church (ROC) was recognised by the state but firmly under state control. All prominent church figures had to gain state approval and were expected to collaborate with the secular authorities. Very few ROC leaders have confessed to collaboration, however, so this is still a live issue. One of the first to do so was Patriarch Teoctist himself, who then stepped down in 1990; but after three months, at the insistence of other members of the Synod, he came back and remained as patriarch until 2007.

Teoctist was a monastic; his successor Patriarch Daniel is a man of the world who is interested in marketing the church in contemporary society. Teoctist was pro-Russia and under his leadership the ROC tended to issue statements critical of the West; Daniel by contrast is pro-western and pro-EU. As far as church-state relations are concerned, Teoctist favoured the English model of an established church, and he and some clergy argued that bishops should be members of an upper house of parliament. Daniel is more in favour of the German model: partnership between church and state but not dependence. Previously the ROC encouraged priests to stand in elections; nowadays it discourages this on the grounds that priests, as Romanian citizens, have the right to engage politically, but not in a partisan manner by running on a particular party list. Several church leaders we have spoken to, including Daniel before he became patriarch, are not in favour of the symphonia state-church model, but prefer the idea of partnership, whereby for example the state would devolve social care to the church, giving it money to carry this out.

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2012, Romania

Romania: In the Shadow of the Past

Romania: In the Shadow of the Past

Lavinia Stan


Given Ceau?escu’s personalised rule, the local uncivic political culture and widespread corruption and intolerance, the country’s limited historical experience with democracy, and the bloody Revolution of December 1989, it is not surprising that Romania faced serious challenges in its efforts to create a stable democracy and to gain acceptance into the larger European family. After Ceau?escu and his wife were executed on Christmas Day 1989, Romanians hoped to gain the political rights and economic prosperity they had been denied for 45 years. But the weakness of civil society and the absence of organised political opposition sealed the country’s fate, as power reverted to second-echelon nomenklatura members, who rejected communism less than they rejected Ceau?escu.

The first years of postcommunist transition in Romania tell the story of the former communists establishing control over the state apparatus, intimidating political rivals, rigging elections, and appropriating state resources through shady privatisation deals. The country has yet to overcome this handicap, as its democratisation and marketisation unfolded at a slower pace than those of other countries in the region. Whereas in Central Europe the collapse of the communist regimes brought the pro-democratic opposition to government, in Romania this happened only in 1996. Whereas in those countries economic stabilisation, liberalisation and privatisation were largely completed by the mid-1990s, in Romania these processes extended almost to the end of the decade. Whereas Central European countries joined the European Union (EU) in 2004, Romania did so only in 2007. The country will need more time to catch up with the other EU member states.

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2005, Romania

The Importance of Dialogue for the Evangelical Churches in Romania in the Context of the Expansion of the European Union

The Importance of Dialogue for the Evangelical Churches in Romania in the Context of the Expansion of the European Union

Daniel Martin

I am not only from Communist Romania, I am also a Christian brought up in the conservative Pentecostal tradition. Nevertheless I am convinced that the problems of the world today cannot be solved without ecumenical dialogue in the spirit of Jesus Christ.

During my high school years in Oradea I was confronted by two groups: the Orthodox and the atheists. A young Orthodox who discovered that I was an Evangelical told me that I had rejected the true faith. The atheists told me that I was nothing, that there was no future for me and that my experience of God was just a fantasy.

The Communist period in Romania was characterised by monologue rather than dialogue. For Evangelical Christians their monologue consisted of questions about suffering, persecution, prison and corrupt leaders.

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2003, Romania

Building Bridges with People in Romania

Building Bridges with People in Romania

Five members of the European Liaison Group of Churches Together in the Borough of Croydon recently spent four days at an International Ecumenical Conference in Romania at the invitation of Studium Academicum, an ecumenical training institution set up by a group of pastors of the Reformed Church around Oradea. They were led by Revd Alan Middleton, Croydon Archdeaconry Ecumenical Officer and Chair of the Liaison Group, and included Revd John Greig, his predecessor, and Revd Anna Heffernan, the group’s secretary.

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