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Politics & Religion in Belgium How an escalating social issue took a dangerous turn Issue I 2 Summary page 3 Belgian Constitution, 1831 page 5 Coincidence? Synchronicity? Coordinated effort? page 6 The growth of the “sect list” page 9 How the “sect list” has been used in Belgium (and France) page 11 What were the methods used by the Parliamentary Inquiry and Working Group? page 13 A democratic and transparent process? Hardly so - a rather embarassing chapter page 15 Advice of CIAOSN
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  Politics & Religion in Belgium How an escalating social issue took a dangerous turn Issue I  2 Summarypage 3Belgian Constitution, 1831page 5Coincidence? Synchronicity? Coordinated effort?page 6 The growth of the “sect list”page 9How the “sect list” has been used in Belgium (and France)page 11What were the methods used by the Parliamentary Inquiry and Working Group?page 13A democratic and transparent process? Hardly so - a rather embarassing chapterpage 15Advice of CIAOSN on FECRISpage 17Incoherence, inconsistency and discriminationpage 19 They have saidpage 20 This situation cost the CIAOSN and the Belgian State several convictionspage 23When real social problems will be tackled effectively?page 26 Table of contents  3 How an escalating social issue took a dangerous turn in Belgium  Summary O n 28 March 1996 an inquiry commission was created to look into the possible dangers of sects in Belgium, issuing its 670-page report on 28 April 1997. e report included as an annex an alphabetical list of 189 groups, including commentary,  which has become a de facto “sect list”. e Parliament refused to adopt the report as such and only voted to accept the conclusions and recommendations (19 pages). Despite this disavowal, the government found it appropriate to publish the whole report, including the controversial list. Following this report, in 1998, a Federal “Observatory on Sects”, formally known as the Center for Information and Advice on Harmful Sectarian Organizations (CIAOSN) was created under the authority of the Ministry of Justice. The Observatory, far from being the independent and impartial body that the law mandates, is a primary source of misinformation and intolerance towards religious minorities in Belgium. On 21 April 2004 a Parliamentary Working Group on Sects was formed to determine the extent that the 1997 Parliamentary inquiry commission’s recommendations on “sects” had been implemented. It presented its report to the Parliament, which adopted the recommendations in its Plenary Session on 30 March 2006. e Working Group repeated, even worsened, the serious methodological errors contained in the 1997 Report, so compounding the already existing problem. e individuals who appeared before the Working Group consisted exclusively of Belgian government intelligence, law enforcement and sect observatory officials. No religious experts, human rights experts nor sociologists were invited to the  Working Group hearings. No religious leaders, representatives of interfaith groups, nor representatives of the religious communities derogatorily designated as “sects”  were invited. No Working Group hearings were open to the public, allowing for public debate and scrutiny and for government transparency regarding its policy of minority religious freedom and tolerance. Instead, the hearings were conducted behind closed doors. Twelve years after the establishment of the “Observatory on Sects”, it is time to draw some conclusions and raise questions about the results of what is widely considered to be, at least beyond the Belgian borders, an out of proportion and discriminatory series of measures that target religious organizations, violating international human rights treaties ratified by Belgium.Meanwhile, serious problems affecting Belgian youth and society, such as drug abuse,  juvenile unemployment, suicide and crime rates, have not been the subject of any parliamentary commission or working group…  4 The Congress column in Brussels
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