Bulletin N°37

mai 2022

The European Union, religion and conflict in global context – English version

Jeffrey Haynes

The European Union’s (EU) engagement with the issue of religion’s relationship with conflict is now global in scope. Advancing from a position of regarding religion as a problem which nevertheless needed to be kept at arm’s length, the EU now recognises for several reasons that it is futile to ignore religion or wish it would go away. First, the EU has adopted the view of the US government that religion is a fundamental human right which should be protected. Second, Europe has since 9/11 seen a key civilisational danger to its security from violent and extremist Islam. Third, the 2011 Arab Uprisings, which threw the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region into turmoil, had major ramifications for Europe’s security. This included in 2015 the attempted entry into Europe of hundreds of thousands of refugees from Syria and other regional trouble spots, who regarded Europe as a safe haven. This article assesses the impact of international religious freedom concerns, the aftermath of 9/11, and the impact of the Arab Uprisings on the EU’s global engagement with religion and conflict.

The European Union and religion: uneasy partners

The European Union’s initial secular bias was reflected in the fact that leading EU institutions, notably the Commission and Parliament, were ideologically and culturally unwilling to deal with faith-based actors. The reluctance of EU policy makers to engage with faith actors underlines the importance of the EU’s traditionally secular ideology, reflected in diplomacy, policy-making and policy execution. Things began to change during Jacques Delors’ presidency of the European Commission (1985-95). Delors was keen to establish ‘channels of “dialogue” between the EU and selected faith actors which shared the norms and values of the EU’. Following Delors’ precedent, further initiatives were launched from the mid/late 1990s to engage institutionally with faith entities. The policy change was ‘driven primarily by the political agendas of the various presidents of the Commission’[1]Sergio Carrera & Joanna Parkin, « The place of religion in European Union law and policy. Competing approaches and actors inside the European Commission », RELIGARE Working Document No. 1, … Continue reading.

While the EU has long engaged with secular NGOs[2]Defined here as private, not-for-profit, non-governmental groups, with specific delimited concerns and interests, there was a significant policy shift in the 2000s to dialogue with selected faith-based organisations (FBOs). This move reflected the fact that the EU was keen to build and strengthen its soft power, drawing on member states’ shared values: democracy, human rights, the rule of law and a market economy. The EU seeks to engage in a sustained fashion with selected FBOs sharing these principles, as their ideological commitment to the EU’s core values is seen as valuable in the pursuit of the EU’s global presence. EU-based FBOs are often transnational in focus and activity, expanding their activities from national to regional to global fora, including the United Nations. Their aim is to influence public policy, including the goal of protecting and advancing international religious freedom[3]Ronan McCrea, Religion and the Public Order of the European Union, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2010.. In short, the EU now regularly interacts with ‘like-minded’ FBOs in attempts to develop regional public policy and governance. What FBOs bring to the table in this respect is a sustained focus on ethics and morals which, many feel, has been missing from the EU’s politics and programmes[4]Freidricke Böllman, « How many roads lead to Brussels?: the political mobilisation of religious organisations within the European public sphere », in Lucian N. Leustean (ed.), Representing … Continue reading.

Despite moves to engage consistently with FBOs and other religious actors, in July 2010, Herman van Rompuy, then president of the European Council, stated that the EU was a ‘secular’ organisation. On the other hand, Rompuy added that the EU should exhibit ‘moral significance’, perhaps implying the desirability of both ‘spiritual and religious input’ in its policies and programmes. He went on to assert that the ‘European Union has to be a union of values. That is our added value in the world. That is the soft power of Europe in the world’[5]Andrea Swalec, « Religious leaders and the EU take tentative first steps », Global News Journal, 23 July 2010. [En ligne] … Continue reading. How to explain van Rompuy’s assertion that the EU ‘should’ be a moral actor, drawing on its foundational historical, cultural attributes, reflecting ‘spiritual and religious input’? Van Rompuy links the importance of ‘values’ in the EU’s ‘soft power’, implying that faith can make a significant contribution in this regard. Van Rompuy’s contribution in this regard was not the only one stemming from an authoritative EU source. Three years earlier, in September 2007, the then EU Commission President, Jose Barroso, had highlighted the importance of the EU developing from ‘a community of interests to a community of values and asked for the support of the Church organizations in that process’[6]Pieterjan de Vlieger & Irina Tananescu, « Changing forms of interactions between the European Commission and interest groups: The case of religious lobbying », Journal of European … Continue reading. The concerns of van Rompuy and Barroso were reflected in the 2007 Treaty of Lisbon which stated: ‘Recognizing their identity and their specific contribution, the Union shall maintain an open, transparent and regular dialogue with these Churches and organizations’[7]Treaty of Lisbon, 2007, Article 15b.3.

Today, the EU has regularised links with dozens of selected faith-based organisations. Leustean identifies 120 religious and ‘convictional’ bodies ‘in dialogue with European institutions’. Of the 120, two-thirds (that is, 80) were Christian entities: 39 (33%) were ‘Catholic bodies’, and 41 (34%) were ‘other Christian’ entities. In addition, there were 17 non-Christian FBOs ‘in dialogue with European institutions’: eight (7%) Jewish, four (3%) Muslim, three (2.5% each) Buddhist, one Hindu and one Bahá'í entity. Finally, there were 20 (17%) ‘convictional bodies’, that is, ‘humanist, laicist, and freemason’ entities regularly interacting with the EU[8]Lucian N. Leustean, « Does God Matter in the European Union? » in Lucian N. Leustean (ed.), Representing Religion in the European Union. Does God Matter?, London, Routledge, 2012, pp. 1-32.. In sum, most of the 120 religious and ‘convictional’ entities in 2012 were Christian, reflecting Europe’s core historical and cultural faith tradition. This was not surprising given that all EU member states trace their cultural and historical roots to various expressions of Christianity.

In sum, the EU’s public policy and governance are informed by both moral and ethical issues, sometimes with faith connotations, especially from Christianity. The EU’s overall aim is to increase its global soft power in relation to democracy, human rights, the rule of law and a market economy.

Religion and conflict in global perspective

The EU is concerned with the rise of religious-based conflicts around the world, especially those involving political Islam. This is not to suggest that Islam, or religion more generally, is inherently violent or its followers prone to violence. On the contrary, religious believers, including Muslims, typically regard their chosen religious expression as both benevolent and inspiring. Sometimes, however, religious people and their faiths are linked to violence and conflict, both between and within religious groups. Perhaps the most egregious recent example is the notorious al-Qaeda on attacks on the United States on 11 September 2001 (‘9/11’). Although 9/11 was more than 20 years ago, its long-term ramifications are of great important to how the West, including the EU, engage today with religion[9]Jeffrey Haynes, From Huntington to Trump: Thirty Years of the Clash of Civilizations, Lanham, Lexington Books, 2019..

There is a burgeoning interest from scholars and policy makers on the relationship between religion and conflict. This underlines that, more generally, religion has made a remarkable return to prominence to the concerns of sociology, political science and international relations. Confounding the expectations of secularists, religion has a strong – many say, growing – significance as a strong source of identity for millions of people around the world. Consequently, religious individuals and FBOs, as important carriers and focal points of religious ideas, play a significant role in many societies, as well as internationally. This increased religious prominence is in the context of religion acting both as a source of conflict and a tool for conflict resolution, peace-making and peacebuilding. On the other hand, many regard religion as a key source of societal hatred, central to many political conflicts especially, but not only, in the global south. Yet, there is also much evidence that religious leaders, actors and institutions can play highly constructive roles in helping end violence and in some cases building peace, via early warnings of conflict, good offices once conflict has erupted, as well as advocacy, mediation and reconciliation aiming to bring about peace. In short, any discussion about the relationship between religion and conflict necessarily highlights that religion can both encourage conflict and peace, through the activities of people collectively imbued with religious ideals.

There is no single, elegant theoretical model enabling us to deal adequately with all relevant cases of religious involvement in religion, conflict, peace-making and peacebuilding, both in regards to the EU and more generally. We can however note that the involvement of religion may increasingly be seen in relation to what might be called ‘good governance’ issues, in turn linked to the multiple impacts of globalisation in countries around the world. Recent and current globalisation – characterised by often destabilising economic, political, cultural and technological effects – serves to highlight religious issues, not least by undermining assorted traditional value systems. One consequence of the impact of globalisation is that many people are said to feel increasingly disorientated and troubled and in response religion may be the vehicle and focus for trying to deal with associated existential angst. Such people may find in religion a source of comfort, serenity, stability and spiritual uplifting. Some may also experience new or renewed feelings of identity that not only help provide believers’ lives with meaning and purpose but also can in some cases contribute to inter-religious competition and conflict.

Globalisation leads to greatly increased interactions between people and communities. Encounters between different religious traditions are common – although not always harmonious. Conflicts between people, societal groups, classes and nations are increasingly framed in religious terms. Such conflicts may assume ‘larger-than-life’ proportions, appearing as existential struggles between ‘good’ against ‘evil’. This development is played out in some countries and regions, for example, the USA, Israel and Europe, via ‘culture wars’ between religious people and secularists. While the causes of culture wars are varied and often complex, religious worldviews can encourage different allegiances and standards in relation to various areas, including the family, law, education and politics, compared to those held by secularists[10]Jeffrey Haynes, Trump and the Politics of Neo-Nationalism: The Christian Right and Secular Nationalism in America, London, Routledge, 2021..

In sum, conflicts can have religious dimensions, whereby real or perceived differences drive accompanying hatred and violence. Religious actors can be either ‘angels of peace’ or ‘warmongers’. Appleby identifies the ambivalence of the religious factor in conflicts, explaining that religion’s relationship to violence is unclear, and may be expressed in various ways[11]Scott R. Appleby, The Ambivalence of the Sacred: Religion, Violence, and Reconciliation, New York, Rowman & Littlefield, 2000.. The inconsistency of the relationship of religion to conflict is made clear when we think of current religious involvement in conflicts. For example, widespread instability, insecurity and violence in the MENA, Africa, Asia and other parts of the global south is frequently associated with religious conflicts. Yet, most such cases, religious tensions erupting into conflict and violence are linked to non-religious issues, including: ethnicity; gender; culture; class; power; and wealth. Such tensions can be played out both within countries, for example, Northern Ireland, Egypt, Nigeria, Fiji, Cyprus, Sri Lanka, and/or between them, for example, India and Pakistan and Israel and Palestine, or across entire regions, as in the MENA in the context of the 2011Arab Uprisings.

The EU and international religious freedom

As with the relationship between religion and conflict, international religious freedom (IRF). is also a global issue, emerging in recent years as a key concern for both religious and secular human rights advocacy groups, especially in the USA and among EU member states[12]Jeffrey Haynes, « Religion and a human rights culture in America », The Review of Faith & International Affairs, vol. 6 (2), 2008, pp. 73-82.. In the USA, the Clinton administration (1993-2001) was initially indifferent to IRF issues, not because it necessarily believed they were unimportant but because it did not see the issue as one that needed prioritising in US foreign policy[13]Gregorio Bettiza, Finding Faith in Foreign Policy: Religion and American Diplomacy in a Postsecular World, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2019.. Things changed in the 1990s when an alliance of human rights advocacy groups successfully lobbied Congress and other arms of government to make IRF a US foreign policy priority. Succumbing to pressure, President Bill Clinton signed into law the International Religious Freedom Act (IRFA) in 1998. IRFA identified international religious freedom as a core facet of America’s foreign policy. Successive administrations pursued IRF, and over time, other Western governments have also prioritised IRF, a policy also pursued by the EU.

There are various opinions of IRF. Farr’s summary of the moral and ethical desirability of IRF is a thoughtful analysis which commands wide attention. In 1999, Tom Farr became the first director of the State Department’s Office of International Religious Freedom. Currently (July 2020), he is president of the Religious Freedom Institute, an NGO working to achieve worldwide acceptance of religious freedom[14]Thomas Farr, World of Faith and Freedom: Why International Religious Liberty Is Vital to American National Security, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2008.. He argues that promoting religious freedom around the world is not just a good thing in itself. It is also a necessary component of a foreign policy which aims to be both just and ethical. Hurd regards America’s IRF policy as designed to aid the USA’s bid for international hegemony, via an “approved list” of religious minorities which the USA assists – without concern for those not on the list. She also argues that protections for the rights of religious minorities have “gone viral” and “the good religion-bad religion mandate has become an industry”[15]Elizabeth Shakman Hurd, Beyond Religious Freedom. The New Global Politics of Religion, Princeton, Princeton University Press, 2015, 5-35.. Joustra contends that what Hurd is dissatisfied with is not “religion, or religious freedom, but really with the project of liberalism”. That is, protection of religious freedom around the world is a project of liberalism, along with other human rights such as democracy, equality, and the rights of minorities[16]Robert Joustra, « Is the problem really religious freedom? », The Review of Faith & International Affairs, vol. 14, 2016, pp. 129–33..

The EU faces similar issues about IRF, including: What is it for? Is it to promote religious freedom as a good thing in itself? Or is it primarily a means to increase the EU’s soft power to promote wider goals: liberal democracy, human rights and a market economy? The EU advances Freedom of Religion and Belief as a fundamental value, believing it a key component of peaceful and resilient societies. Article 10 of the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights, ratified in December 2000, states that everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion. This includes the freedom to make visible or to change one’s religion or belief, focusing on worship, teaching, practice and observance. Founded in 2019, the EU’s Global Exchange on Religion and Society (GERIS) highlights the desirability of engaging ‘approved’ religious actors in relation to religious freedom and the consequences for societal cohesion. In 2021, the Council Conclusions on an EU Approach to Cultural Heritage in conflicts and crises highlighted the importance of interfaith dialogue and inclusion of religious minorities as part of the EU's external push for peace, democracy and sustainable development. The EU organises inter-religious freedom round tables in various countries –such as, Sri Lanka, Uzbekistan, Jordan, and Lebanon – as well as advocating with faith leaders for protection of holy sites in, for example, Jerusalem and Nigeria[17][online] https://euobserver.com/opinion/152741..

While peaceful societies protect human rights, enabling diversity to flourish, when religious freedom is under attack, social cohesion suffers, and conflict may grow. Aware of such concerns, High Representative Federica Mogherini, stated the goals of GERIS: to ‘connect and empower civil society actors who are working on faith and social inclusion’. GERIS is an example of the EU engaging institutionally with FBOs to pursue IRF as an expression of the EU’s commitment to liberal values in a world beset by democratic backsliding, autocratisation and egregious denials of human rights. For the EU: “Religion has to be part of the solution. But most importantly, I believe in so many places around the world religion is already part of the solution. In all continents, there are people of faith who have chosen the path of respect and coexistence. Not in spite of their faith, but because of their faith’[18][Online] https://www.signis.net/news/world-2/25-09-2019/eu-launches-new-global-exchange-on-religion-in-society..

Between 2020-2022, GERIS ran workshops, bringing together groups of 20-25 people, whose aim was to empower community actors inside and outside Europe in the pursuit of enhanced social inclusion and societal resilience. GERIS’ aim was to build a global exchange with civil society actors, both secular and faith-based, to facilitate the spread of best practices to promoting mutual respect and foster social inclusion. This would be pursued by creating a transnational network of actors from civil society, facilitating acquisition of new skills and scaling up of activities to reach a wider global audience[19]Ibid..

The EU, religion and conflict in the Middle East and North Africa

GERIS is an example of recent EU initiatives in relation to inter-religious dialogue. The general aim is to reduce the propensity of religion to be a factor in conflicts around the world. A major stimulation for the EU’s initiatives was the egregious attacks on the USA on 11 September 2001. On that day, al Qaeda operatives attacked the World Trade Center and Pentagon in the USA, leading to the deaths of nearly 3,000 people. In Europe, in addition, many countries have experienced “Islamist terrorism”[20]Ayhan Kaya & Ayşe Tecmen, « Europe versus Islam? Right-Wing Populist Discourse and the Construction of a Civilizational Identity », The Review of Faith & International Affairs, vol. 1, … Continue reading.As a result of Islamist terrorism, there was ‘talk of a “clash of civilizations” between the West and Islam’[21]Ole Waever, Fear and Faith: Religion as an International Security Issue, Lecture at the Mershon Center, Ohio State University, May 17 2006. [Online] … Continue reading. Some believe that Europe is engaged in an “intercivilizational” conflict with Islamist violent extremists and terrorists. The Danish pioneer of studies of ‘securitisation’, Ole Waever, believes that “the world” is “standing on the brink of a long conflict, perhaps a new ‘cold war’ that features small-scale, but spectacular violence”, involving the “West” and “Islam”[22]Ibid..

EU member states regarded the ‘Arab Uprisings’ (also referred to as the ‘Arab Spring’) with alarm. Beginning in October 2010 in Tunisia, an anti-authority rebellion followed a few months later in Egypt, followed by the overthrow of Libya’s dictatorship. In addition, there were major political upheavals in Syria, Bahrain and Yemen, and minor expressions of political dissent in Algeria and Morocco. In May 2011, the al Qaeda leader, Osama bin Laden, was killed in Pakistan by US agents. There were fears in Europe, that bin Laden’s death would lead to further political turmoil in the MENA, spilling over into Europe.

The Arab Uprisings events were a regional focal point of economic, political and religious demands, affecting all Arab-majority countries in the MENA, as well as relations between the Palestinians and Israel. Outcomes were not uniform: in Tunisia, multi-party democracy was installed, while in Syria, a dictator remained in power after an inconclusive civil war. In Egypt, the Muslim Brotherhood’s Mohamed Morsi was elected president but was soon ousted by a military coup. Today, a decade after the Arab Uprisings, there are widespread popular concerns in the MENA about a lack of economic growth, meaningful political reforms and religious freedom, as well as persecution of religious minorities, including Christian Copts in Egypt and Alevis in Turkey. More generally, the Arab Uprisings highlighted the importance of stability, security and regime longevity, as well as popular demands for economic, political and social reforms. It is clear that governments in the MENA are typically struggling to deal with challenges from their fast-growing populations who are demanding jobs, political reforms, religious freedom and improved welfare[23]Jeffrey Haynes, « The Arab Spring: Problems and Prospects » in Peter Hough, Shahin Malik, Andrew Moran & Bruce Pilbeam, Security Studies, London, Routledge, 2020..

Fundamental political and economic changes are unlikely in the MENA, for several reasons. First, widespread sectarian divisions characterise the region – involving different religious expressions, such as, intra-Islam (Iraq, Syria, Bahrain) and Islam-Christian (Tunisia, Egypt) tensions. Despite the coming together of people from all faiths in the Arab Uprisings, Egypt and Tunisia have sectarian tensions and conflict, Syria is immersed in a deeply polarising sectarian conflict after years of civil war. Deadly rivalries involve Iran and Saudi Arabia, on the one hand, and Russia and the USA, on the other, which fuel regional instability. Finally, the government of Saudi Arabia regards the transnational Muslim Brotherhood as a profound threat to the regional status quo and does all it can to undermine the Brotherhood across the MENA region.

The Arab Uprisings and subsequent events have destabilised the MENA region, which has had knock on effects in Europe. The EU regards greater engagement with the Southern Mediterranean region as an important goal, given the region’s proximity to Europe. The EU goal is to assist in stabilisation of the MENA, as a way to increase and improve Europe’s own stability and security. According to Wolff, the main motivation for EU engagement with the Southern Mediterranean is both a ‘physical and ontological security-seeking practice’[24]Sarah Wolff, ‘EU religious engagement in the Southern Mediterranean: Much ado about nothing?’, Mediterranean Politics, 23(1), 2018, pp. 161-181.. The role of religion is central to improve both stability and security. To achieve these gaols, the EU seeks to improve its security by working closely with regional governments to promote and underpin state-sponsored forms of religion in Morocco and Jordan which aim to project a ‘moderate’ Islam, aiming to undermine the popular appeal of radical and extremist versions of the faith. Second, the EU has sought to build up its expertise on religion in order to develop more informed policies in relation to the MENA. The EU’s policies are however subject to politicisation and critics note that the EU tends to engage with religion in the MENA via Freedom of Religion or Belief, with a penchant for focusing on protection of Christian minorities in regional countries. The result is that EU religious engagement with governments leads to selective engagement with ‘friendly’ – that is, ‘moderate’ - religious actors supportive of incumbent governments, while failing to engage with extremist and violent religious challenges to the status quo.

The EU’s initiative in relation to the Southern Mediterranean/MENA region should be seen in relation to a regional increase of religion-based or -linked conflicts, a defining feature of the Arab world since the 2011 uprisings. For example, the Syrian civil war developed into a polarising religious sectarian conflict, no longer a simple freedom struggle of groups seeking to overthrow a dictatorial regime, while the brutalities of Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) against religious minorities is well documented. In response, European states’ foreign affairs ministries, as well as the European External Action Service (EEAS) and the European Parliament (EP) placed ‘religious engagement’ at the centre of EU relations with the Southern Mediterranean[25]Elizabeth Shakman Hurd, op. cit.. Following the Arab Uprisings, European diplomats underwent crash courses in ‘understanding’ religion. EEAS delegations engage with religious actors. The European Parliament Intergroup publishes an annual report on the State of Freedom of Religion or Belief (FoRB) in the world. Collectively, these initiatives reflect an EU concern with religion in global conflict, especially in relation to a neighbouring region, the MENA.

EU initiatives seek to develop an institutional response to terrorism and violence in the MENA, as well as the growth in immigration from the region, continuing economic uncertainties stemming from the 2008 economic crash and a generalised sense of insecurity. Regarding immigration, much of which involves Muslims from the MENA, the EU regards the issue as a security sense and in response signed agreements with Turkey and several African countries to send migrants and refugees back to their countries of origin. In addition, perhaps as a last resort, measures might include building ‘anti-migration’ walls – à la Hungary’s Viktor Orbán – designed to keep out unwanted migrants and refugees. The state of Israel pioneered this approach in its dealings with Palestinians. But if one is concerned that Europe keeps its liberal ideals alive, then such a ‘solution’ is ultimately futile or worse, as it irrevocably coarsens and diminishes politics by denying the capacity of people outside Europe from enjoying the rights and privileges that Europeans take for granted. Since 2015, the main EU response to the regional fear of Islamisation and mass Muslim migration has been to double down on anti-terrorism measures. According to the EU, ‘[t]errorism threatens our security, the values of our democratic societies and the rights and freedoms of European citizens. Fighting terrorism is a top priority for the EU and its member states, as well as for its international partners’[26]The EU’s Response to Terrorism. [online] https://www.consilium.europa.eu/en/policies/fight-against-terrorism/.

The EU adopted nine policy measures to try to deal with Islamist extremism and terrorism. These interrelated measures were seen as necessary following 9/11 and a series of terrorist outrages in Europe. The nine measures were:

  • prevention of radicalisation
  • a list of named terrorists
  • information exchange between European governments and the EU on extremists
  • an EU counter-terrorism coordinator
  • seeking to prevent funds from reaching terrorists
  • firearms controls
  • improved digital justice
  • stopping foreign fighters from travelling between countries.

The EU accepts that member states have the main responsibility to combat crime, including terrorism. Yet while ‘security primarily lies with the member states’, in ‘recent years terrorist attacks have shown that this is also a common responsibility’ which European states should work on collectively. The EU aims to contribute ‘to the protection of its citizens by acting as the main forum for cooperation and coordination among member states’. In 2015, EU leaders issued a joint statement to guide the work of the EU and its member states. It called for specific measures, focusing on three areas:

  • ensuring the security of citizens
  • preventing radicalisation and safeguarding values
  • cooperating with international partners[27]Informal Meeting of the Heads of State or Government.[Online] https://www.consilium.europa.eu/en/press/press-releases/2015/02/12/european-council-statement-fight-against-terrorism/

In November 2020, following terrorist attacks in France, Germany and Austria, EU home affairs ministers agreed to further strengthen their joint efforts in the fight against terrorism, without compromising the EU’s common values such as democracy, justice and freedom of speech (Joint statement by the EU home affairs ministers on the recent terrorist attacks in Europe, 2020). A month later, in December 2020, EU leaders reiterated their unity in the fight against radicalisation, terrorism and violent extremism[28]European Council conclusions, 10-11 December 2020. [online] https://www.consilium.europa.eu/en/press/press-releases/2020/12/11/european-council-conclusions-10-11-december-2020/..

While the results of the post-2015 EU policy measures are as yet uncertain, it seems clear that not every major security concern that Europe has faced since 2015 is due to the international migration/refugee crisis; yet the issue has not gone away, never far from newspaper headlines or news bulletins on television and radio. The unexpected, apparently uncontrollable influx of a million people arriving in Europe from the Middle East and elsewhere in the late summer of 2015 demonstrably caused shockwaves to European politics and institutions. Since then, tens of thousands of people, notably form the Middle East, North Africa and Sub-Saharan Africa, have sought to find safe haven in Europe, whether to escape persecution or to find a better life. Many, tragically, have lost their lives in their bid to enter European countries. The continuing crisis has caused major self-questioning in Europe, in a manner reminiscent of the fall of the Berlin Wall in November 1989: What is Europe? What is Europe’s place in a fast-changing global environment?

 

Conclusion

The article explained and accounted for recent EU engagement with three events and developments – international religious freedom, the aftermath of 9/11, and the 2011 Arab Uprisings and their aftermath. These were selected as examples of the EU’s development of concern with religion and conflict in a global context, which goes beyond Europe. It reflects a concern that around the world religion is often involved in conflicts, which can in turn affect Europe’s stability and security. The EU has sought to develop dialogue with civil society groups, both secular and faith-based, working on the premise that disagreements frequently begin at the local level before developing into national, regional or international conflicts. This was the main motivation encouraging the EU to move on from a position of regarding religion as a problem which needed to be kept at arm’s length. Today, both the EU and its member states are well aware that it is futile to ignore religion or wish it would go away. As a result, the EU has firmed up its policies in relation to several religion-related areas. These included a focus on international religious freedom, following the lead of the US government in respecting religious as a fundamental human right whose protection should be prioritised. Second, in the two decades since 9/11 Europe regards violent and extremist Islam as a civilisational danger to its security and stability. Third, the 2011 Arab Uprisings and the subsequent 2015 refugee and migrant crisis threw into sharp relief Europe’s concern with stability and security in its southern neighbourhood: the MENA.

 

 

 

 

Notes

Notes
1 Sergio Carrera & Joanna Parkin, « The place of religion in European Union law and policy. Competing approaches and actors inside the European Commission », RELIGARE Working Document No. 1, 2010.
2 Defined here as private, not-for-profit, non-governmental groups, with specific delimited concerns and interests
3 Ronan McCrea, Religion and the Public Order of the European Union, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2010.
4 Freidricke Böllman, « How many roads lead to Brussels?: the political mobilisation of religious organisations within the European public sphere », in Lucian N. Leustean (ed.), Representing Religion in the European Union. Does God Matter?, London, Routledge, 2013, pp. 201-216.
5 Andrea Swalec, « Religious leaders and the EU take tentative first steps », Global News Journal, 23 July 2010. [En ligne] http://blogs.reuters.com/global/2010/07/23/religious-leaders-and-the-eu-take-tentative-first-steps/.
6 Pieterjan de Vlieger & Irina Tananescu, « Changing forms of interactions between the European Commission and interest groups: The case of religious lobbying », Journal of European Integration, Vol. 34 (5), 2012, pp. 447–463.
7 Treaty of Lisbon, 2007, Article 15b.3
8 Lucian N. Leustean, « Does God Matter in the European Union? » in Lucian N. Leustean (ed.), Representing Religion in the European Union. Does God Matter?, London, Routledge, 2012, pp. 1-32.
9 Jeffrey Haynes, From Huntington to Trump: Thirty Years of the Clash of Civilizations, Lanham, Lexington Books, 2019.
10 Jeffrey Haynes, Trump and the Politics of Neo-Nationalism: The Christian Right and Secular Nationalism in America, London, Routledge, 2021.
11 Scott R. Appleby, The Ambivalence of the Sacred: Religion, Violence, and Reconciliation, New York, Rowman & Littlefield, 2000.
12 Jeffrey Haynes, « Religion and a human rights culture in America », The Review of Faith & International Affairs, vol. 6 (2), 2008, pp. 73-82.
13 Gregorio Bettiza, Finding Faith in Foreign Policy: Religion and American Diplomacy in a Postsecular World, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2019.
14 Thomas Farr, World of Faith and Freedom: Why International Religious Liberty Is Vital to American National Security, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2008.
15 Elizabeth Shakman Hurd, Beyond Religious Freedom. The New Global Politics of Religion, Princeton, Princeton University Press, 2015, 5-35.
16 Robert Joustra, « Is the problem really religious freedom? », The Review of Faith & International Affairs, vol. 14, 2016, pp. 129–33.
17 [online] https://euobserver.com/opinion/152741.
18 [Online] https://www.signis.net/news/world-2/25-09-2019/eu-launches-new-global-exchange-on-religion-in-society.
19 Ibid.
20 Ayhan Kaya & Ayşe Tecmen, « Europe versus Islam? Right-Wing Populist Discourse and the Construction of a Civilizational Identity », The Review of Faith & International Affairs, vol. 1, 2019, pp. 49–64.
21 Ole Waever, Fear and Faith: Religion as an International Security Issue, Lecture at the Mershon Center, Ohio State University, May 17 2006. [Online] https://kb.osu.edu/bitstream/handle/1811/30197/Ole%20W%c3%a6ver%205-17-06.pdf?sequence=4..
22 Ibid.
23 Jeffrey Haynes, « The Arab Spring: Problems and Prospects » in Peter Hough, Shahin Malik, Andrew Moran & Bruce Pilbeam, Security Studies, London, Routledge, 2020.
24 Sarah Wolff, ‘EU religious engagement in the Southern Mediterranean: Much ado about nothing?’, Mediterranean Politics, 23(1), 2018, pp. 161-181.
25 Elizabeth Shakman Hurd, op. cit.
26 The EU’s Response to Terrorism. [online] https://www.consilium.europa.eu/en/policies/fight-against-terrorism/
27 Informal Meeting of the Heads of State or Government.[Online] https://www.consilium.europa.eu/en/press/press-releases/2015/02/12/european-council-statement-fight-against-terrorism/
28 European Council conclusions, 10-11 December 2020. [online] https://www.consilium.europa.eu/en/press/press-releases/2020/12/11/european-council-conclusions-10-11-december-2020/.
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Jeffrey Haynes, "The European Union, religion and conflict in global context – English version". Bulletin de l'Observatoire international du religieux N°37 [en ligne], mai 2022. https://obsreligion.cnrs.fr/bulletin/the-european-union-religion-and-conflict-in-global-context/
Bulletin
Numéro : 37
mai 2022

Sommaire du n°37

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Auteur.e.s

Jeffrey Haynes, emeritus professor of politics at London Metropolitan University.