Church leader talks with EU officials in Brussels on protecting religious freedom

In a recent roundtable discussion at the European Parliament in Brussels, Francesco Di Lillo, director of the European Union Office of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, spoke to EU officials regarding the Church’s commitment to religious freedom.

He also shared recommendations regarding a mandate of the European Commission’s Special Envoy on the promotion of freedom of religion or belief outside the EU, which was created on behalf of the European Platform against Religious Intolerance and Discrimination, an organization of which the Church is an active member.

The Nov. 5 roundtable was hosted by Andrzej Grzyb, Polish member of the European Parliament, and gathered EU officials with representatives of various churches and faith communities as well as humanist organizations. Those in attendance were invited to share their recommendations regarding a recent report by Mr. Grzyb on the mandate of the Special Envoy and their views on religious freedom throughout the world.

Read Elder D. Todd Christofferson's full talk at the G20 Interfaith Forum on why religious freedom matters.

“As a global Church, and because of its history, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has a special commitment to religious freedom," said Di Lillo during his remarks.

Regarding his recommendations for Mr. Grzyb’s report on the mandate, Di Lillo extended an invitation for the European Council to establish an EU Special Representative of Freedom of Religion or Belief. He also recommended extending the mandate from one to five years and to improve institutional coordinations among EU institutions and the mandate holders. He noted that more financial and human resources will also be a key part of ensuring the work of the mandate is accomplished.

In discussing the status of religious freedom worldwide, Di Lillo said, “… the general picture is quite grim. Vulnerable groups are still targeted and persecuted, harassed and deprived of their most basic rights and freedoms.”

He continued: “We feel it important to reaffirm that freedom of religion or belief protects not only individuals, but also religious organizations that make faith communities possible, and also non-believers.”

Mr. Andrzej Grzyb, Member of the European Parliament. European Union 2018.
Mr. Andrzej Grzyb, Member of the European Parliament. European Union 2018. Credit: Vincent Van Doornick, EP, EP

In his closing remarks, Di Lillo explained that Latter-day Saint leaders have taught the importance of religious freedom for as long as the Church has been established. “I am sure we will all continue to embrace these principles, protect religious freedom for all and work together towards a more tolerant society,” he said.

According to a Facebook post by the EU office of the Church that detailed the event, among the EU officials in attendance at the round table were Mairead McGuinness, first vice president of the European Parliament; Jan Figel, special envoy on the promotion of freedom of religion or belief outside the EU; Peter van Dalen MEP, co-chair of the European Parliament Intergroup on Freedom of religion or belief & Religious tolerance; Waheed Kahn MEP, and Jan Olbrycht MEP.

The EU Office of the Church opened in Brussels in September 2013 and, according to a recent video posted to their Facebook page, their mission is to “advise Church leaders on EU policy, focusing on the three pillars of faith, family and freedom of religion and belief.”