Navarra, Spain. The Public University of Navarra (UPNA) organised an autumn course on “Inclusion of Religious Diversity and Interculturality, the challenge of promoting the European way of life”. The course was held from 26 to 28 September in the Salón de Grados of the “Los Olivos” building.
The course was inaugurated by Prof. Drª. Drª. Begoña Pérez Eransus, Vice-Rector of Projection, Culture and Dissemination of the UPNA; the Vice-Dean Beatriz Rodríguez Sanz de Galdeano, on behalf of Prof. Dr. Rafael Lara González, Dean of the Faculty of Legal Sciences of the UPNA; and Prof. Dr. Juan Mª Sánchez Prieto – Director of the I-Communitas Institute of the same University.
In the framework of the Call for grants for the dissemination of EU policies and strategies, the Public University of Navarra, in collaboration with EUROPE DIRECT Navarra/Nafarroa, organised this conference on Inclusion of religious diversity, in which Article 10 of the European Charter of Human Rights was studied within the theme of “The challenge of promoting the European way of life, in the light of Article 10 of the European Charter of Fundamental Rights”.
The Director and coordinator of this course has been the Professor of Constitutional Law Prof. Dr. Alejandro Torres Gutiérrez, of the UPNA, and Researcher of the Institute for Advanced Social Research, of the UPNA, the I-Communitas Institute, who was also the winner of the Religious Freedom Awards in the 2020 edition.
First day of the course
The first day of the course began, after the institutional act, with a lecture on “The system of Agreements in the light of the principle of secularism of the State” given by Prof. Drª. Adoración Castro Jover – Professor of State Ecclesiastical Law at the UPV. Member of the Advisory Commission on Religious Freedom.
This was followed by Prof. Dr. Juan Carlos Orenes Ruiz. – Professor of Constitutional Law at the UPNA and Legal Advisor to the Government of Navarre, who addressed the subject of “Regulatory challenges of religious diversity in the light of the principle of secularism: Social Security System for ministers of worship, recognition of marriage, conscientious objections, town planning, places of worship and cemeteries”.
Prof. Orenes Ruiz was in charge of moderating the first day’s debate, entitled “The inclusion of merely registered denominations in the Register of Religious Entities: The long road to the recognition of notorious roots and the signing of an Agreement”, in which attendees were able to listen to and learn from the contributions of Iván Arjona Pelado (Church of Scientology, the religion founded by L. Ron Hubbard), Karlos Alastruey (Baha`i Community), Juan Carlos Ramchandani [Krishna Kripa Dasa] (priest and President of the Hindu Federation and Vice-President of the Hindu Forum Europe), as well as Master Shifu You Weijun (Taoist Union of Spain). They all contributed, among other things and clarifications, their views on the current system of dealing with religious denominations, which they consider “treats the different denominations and their members unfairly”, with “levels of recognition” such as the so-called “notorious rootedness”. The speakers highlighted how the regulation of notorious roots (a category that does not derive from the constitutional norm) has created first, second and third division religions, and how the “bar” of requirements demanded of religious entities is for many unattainable due to their history and idiosyncrasy, thus preventing equal treatment of all citizens, treating them unequally according to their religion of choice.
Second day of the course
On the second day of the course, Prof. Torres gave a lecture on “The legal, social and economic challenges of the inclusion of religious diversity in Spain“, followed by another lecture on “Teaching religion in public schools and inclusion of diversity in the educational system”, masterfully presented by Prof. Dr. Óscar Celador Angón, Professor of State Ecclesiastical Law at the University Carlos III of Madrid.
The day ended with a debate on “Religious diversity in schools. A perspective from the Institutes and Teaching Centres of Navarre”, moderated by Prof. Torres, with contributions from Prof. Mikel Aramburu Zudaire (Instituto Plaza de la Cruz), Prof Luis Alberto Andía Celaya (Instituto de Barañain), Prof Fernando Jorajuria Zabalza (Instituto Navarro Villoslada), and Prof Juan Antonio Ojer Ojer (Colegio Público Iturrama).
Third day of the course
The third and final day of the Autumn Course concluded with two more lectures and a debate. The first lecture was on “Religious radicalisation and violence: Prevention and indicators”, given by Prof. Dr. Sergio García Magariño (Professor of Political Science and Administration at the UPNA and Researcher at the I-Communitas Institute), followed by a series of “Proposals de lege ferenda for a better inclusion of religious diversity in Spanish society”, presented by Ander Loyola Sergio – Researcher at the UPNA.
The final debate on “The inclusion of denominations with a declaration of well-known roots” was moderated by Prof. Alejandro Torres Gutiérrez, with the participation of José Ferrer Sánchez (Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints), Enrique Caputo Rivera (Buddhist Federation of Spain) and David Baltaretu (Romanian Orthodox Church).
Audiovisual educational material for religious diversity
With the material from this course, explains Professor Alejandro Torres Gutiérrez, audiovisual material will be produced “highlighting the existing religious diversity… as well as the challenges and present difficulties for its full social inclusion”, with the aim of contributing to the “full realisation of the right recognised by Article 10 of the European Charter of Fundamental Rights”.
The course was aimed at Members of religious minorities, staff and authorities of public administrations, parliamentarians, political parties, trade unions, foundations, associations and other entities, as well as university and secondary school students, students of the Aula de la Experiencia and the general public interested in the study of the legal regime of Religious Denominations without Cooperation Agreement.
As the UPNA website explains: “The inclusion of religious diversity is one of the great challenges in our society, in which strong social prejudices still persist, and where there is significant underlying legislative discrimination. Article 10 of the European Charter of Fundamental Rights recognises the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion, which poses the challenge, from the point of view of promoting the European way of life, of including the existing religious diversity in our society, where strong social prejudices still persist, and where there is still significant legislative discrimination”.
Furthermore, the website indicates that in order to analyse the main challenges existing in this field, the UPNA has counted on “university experts specialised in the study of freedom of conscience, as well as from the world of education, and the representatives of the main religious confessions that lack a Cooperation Agreement with the State”.