Is there a distinction to be made between “cults” or “sects” and religions? Should religious freedom be only accessible to so-called historical religions and their members? Should other minority religious or spiritual movements called “sects” or “cults” be denied the enjoyment of the provisions of international declarations and covenants guaranteeing freedom of religion or belief?
I would like to use these brief remarks to offer some perspectives on the notion of “multiculturalism,” and to share my concerns, as a human rights advocate, about threats to fundamental human rights in Europe posed by some interpretations of multiculturalism.
I am not sure why the word “multiculturalism” even exists as a descriptive term, because all societies are in fact multicultural. Even the most isolated groups, which have not been influenced by global diversity, whose members share a common religion, a common language and ethnic heritage, common symbols and customs—even such societies are in fact multicultural.
The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (United Nations 1989, CRC) is a binding international contract in the framework of the United Nations, and thus obliges legally the ratifying nations – indeed all UN members besides the United States and Somalia – to implement its provisions. This is a mayor milestone to recognise children, i.e. everyone under the age of 18, as citizens with human rights, and consequently responsibilities. Through this convention, children are conceived as subjects of society – like all human beings – and not anymore as mere objects of protection (Verhellen 2000).
Ms. Illario Esposito, member of the Council of Europe Advisory Council on Youth and Trainer in Human Rights Education, first showed a video about the Advisory Council on Youth for the Council of Europe dealing with human rights (see www.coe.int/enter). She explained that In terms of human rights education, the Council of Europe speaks about all the issues that young people are facing today.
Mr. Bogdan Pammer, Youth Director of UPF – Europe, spoke on the issue of how the UPF youth committees around Europe are dealing with these issues. He first quoted the so-called Böckenförde-dictum: “The liberal secular state lives on premises that it cannot itself guarantee”.