The statement of Andras Corban-Arthen
President, of European Congress of Ethnic Religions
As president of the European Congress of Ethnic Religions (ECER), I would like to condemn, in the strongest possible terms, the unwillingness of the Lithuanian Parliament (Seimas) to recognize Romuva as an official religion in Lithuania. Romuva has fulfilled all the requirements to qualify for such a designation — it is a rapidly growing religion, whose members have creditably represented their homeland all over the world. Moreover, Romuva stands as one of the few remaining examples of the survival of European indigenous religions and cultures.
The decision by the Seimas, under strong pressure from the Roman Catholic church, represents not only a gross violation of the Lithuanian Constitution, but also contravenes important treaties and agreements such as the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union and the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
This has been a long and ongoing process. The leadership of Romuva has been actively pursuing their right to be recognized as a religion in Lithuania for almost three decades. The ECER and other NGOs, both in Europe and abroad, have officially expressed our support. I have personally met twice with Lithuanian government officials in an effort to convince them to approve Romuva’s petition. The Parliament of the World’s Religions has also sent letters of support, as have indigenous leaders and elders from various parts of the world. But — despite the incontrovertible agreements establishing religious freedom of choice and expression, and separation of church and state throughout most of Europe — the sad reality is that government officials in many countries still bow down to the dictates of mainstream religions, even if it means breaking or ignoring their own laws.
In the 21st century, no government should have the right to officially recognize some religions, and not others. Freedom of religion should apply to all religions equally, period. The ECER affirms our support of Romuva, and we will stand in solidarity with our Lithuanian sisters and brothers in any further efforts to bring this matter before such bodies as the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva, and the UN’s Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues in New York. We invite all peoples of good conscience to join us in these efforts.
President, European Congress of Ethnic Religions