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Work-free Sundays for EU citizens - Press Release on EU Sunday Law Aspirations

Work-free Sundays for EU citizens - Press Release on EU Sunday Law Aspirations

Brussels, Belgium [Press Release – CD EUDNews]. On January 21, 2014, the Second Conference emphasizing the importance of Work-Free Sundays was hosted by the European Parliament (EP) in Brussels for members of the European Parliament, and the “European Sun

February 09, 2014 | Liviu Olteanu; CD EUDNews;

Brussels, Belgium [Press Release – CD EUDNews]. On January 21, 2014, the Second Conference emphasizing the importance of Work-Free Sundays was hosted by the European Parliament (EP) in Brussels for members of the European Parliament, and the “European Sunday Alliance”. Almost all of the 120 participants (from diverse EU countries) were in favour of implementing a work-free Sunday throughout the entire EU.

With the official motto: “ decent working hours and work-free Sundays in the EU. (and how European Parliament Members can promote it) ” the conference focused on certain aspects of social cohesion and work/recreation balance “to have a synchronized legal time off”. All these campaigns are based on the participants’ interventions on “protection of EU citizens’ health”, “decent working hours”, “respect for family and private life” and “let us live together”.

The European Sunday Alliance (ESA) is a network of: a) National Sunday Alliances of European Countries (Austria and Germany are the main initiators of ESA; recently other organizations and churches became involved from: Slovakia, Italy, Spain, Belgium, Poland, Switzerland, Czech Republic, Slovenia, Netherland, Romania, Estonia, France, Greece, Hungary, United Kingdom, etc.); b) Religious Communities (Roman Catholic Churches, different Protestant and Orthodox churches and others); c) Trade Unions; d) Civil Society organizations; e) Some European Members of Parliament who are very committed to this objective.

Liviu Olteanu, Inter European Division Public Affairs and Religious Liberty director (EUD PARL), who attended the Conference of the European Sunday Alliance in the European Parliament in Brussels, noted that the initiative raises concern. It is a highly sensitive issue and it could affect certain religious minorities including the Seventh-Day Adventist Church.

Liviu Olteanu stated that before the “work-free Sunday” Conference ended, many members of the European Parliament publicly and officially signed their personal commitment prepared and proposed by European Sunday Alliance, called: “Pledge for a work-free Sunday and decent working hours before the European 2014 elections”.

The document begins with these words:” A work-free Sunday and decent working hours are of paramount importance to citizens and workers throughout Europe and are not necessarily in conflict with economic competitiveness. Especially in our present social/economic crisis, the adoption of legislation extending working hours to late evenings, nights, bank holidays and Sundays has direct consequences on small and medium sized enterprises and employee working conditions. Competitiveness needs innovation, innovation needs creativity and creativity needs recreation!”.

The European Sunday Alliance Pledge points out: “As a current or future Member of the European Parliament I pledge:

1. To ensure that all relevant EU-legislation both respect and promote the protection of a common weekly day of rest for all EU citizens, which shall be in principle on a Sunday, in order to protect workers’ health and promote a better balance between family and private life and work;

2. To promote EU-legislation guaranteeing sustainable operating schedule based on the principle of decent working hours benefiting society as well as the economy as a whole. Signed____________”.

In addition, March 3, 2014 was fixed to be the International day of the “work-free Sunday”.

Liviu Olteanu views the EU Sunday law aspirations as problematic, inappropriate and with possible avenues of discrimination which can affect directly, indirectly and in combined forms, some European religious minorities such as: Muslims, Jews, Seventh Day Baptists and Seventh-day Adventists. Seventh-day Adventist Church believers keep Saturday as Sabbath, their day of rest. This standard of Saturday being a day of rest is very different from that held by the majority. Millions of European citizens belonging to religious minority groups could be affected by the EU Sunday Law aspirations that consequently could become a European Sunday Law.

At the Forum on Religious Minorities hosted at the UN in Geneva on November 2013, the United Nations' report was presented by professor Heiner Bielefeldt, Special Rapporteur of the United Nations on Freedom of Religion and Belief, and by Ms. Rita Izsak, Independent Expert of United Nations for Minority Issues. This report stresses that the rights of religious minorities have to be respected and protected all over the world (the EU territory included).

The Seventh-day Adventist church in continental Europe, represented by the Inter-European Division, also supports the position of one of the members of the European Parliament, MEP Takkula, who recently expressed his perspectives on the Sunday Law through a press release.

In according to Mr. Takkula, a Finnish member of the European Parliament and member of the EP Working Group on Freedom of Religious or Belief, “support the principle of safeguarding the opportunity for a weekly day of rest” and continues, “everyone needs a proper break in the working week.(…). Sunday-keepers also have every right to rest and worship on the day they feel is right. Legislation must never discriminate against people on religious grounds. A law setting up Sunday as the universal work-free day would do just that,” said Mr. Takkula. He emphasized that “freedom of religion and belief is a core European value. This principle must be upheld and taken seriously in all discussions deliberating the role of a weekly day of rest. The European Union must guarantee everyone equal rights of freedom to celebrate the rest day of their conviction”.

Liviu Olteanu asks all European Union organizations and Member States to always protect and respect Article 18 the ‘Universal Declaration of Human Rights’, Articles 18 and 27 the ‘International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR)’ adopted by the United Nations at the General Assembly on December 19, 1966, the ‘United Nations Declaration on the rights of people belonging to national or ethnic, religious and linguistic minorities’ dating 1992, and the ‘United Nations Declaration on the Elimination of All Forms of Intolerance and Discrimination Based on Religion or Belief’ dating November 25, 1981. The Article 6 of UN 1981 Declaration states: the right to freedom of thought, conscience, religion or belief shall include, inter alia: “to observe days of rest and to celebrate holidays and ceremonies in accordance with the precepts of one’s religion or belief” (Article 6 h).

The Seventh-day Adventist Church asks the European Parliament and European Commission not to threaten freedom of conscience or religious liberty by legislative initiatives through the proposal and acceptance of laws that threaten religious liberty and religious minorities.

According to the US Ambassador Robert Seiple: “The Government that ignores religious liberty or discriminates against minorities, cannot expect to obtain the majority of votes”.

Liviu Olteanu invites Seventh-day Adventist Church members in the Inter European Division to pray, act with wisdom and lobby at all levels for the rights, freedom and the Sabbath, our day of rest. Adventist Church believers are asked to pray for their international, regional and national representatives, as well as the European legislators and Member States.

We should commit ourselves with wisdom, balance and optimism, to be the Ambassadors of liberty, hope and peace, loving others and always defending the conscience and religious liberty of all. We should not fear, but believe in God’s power and intervention!

liviu.olteanu(at)aidlr(dot)org

To learn more about the European Sunday Alliance, please visit the following web site:

http://www.europeansundayalliance.eu/site/home

pictures: 1. The Logo of the European Sunday Alliance; 2 & 3. The meeting; 4. Liviu Olteanu, Inter European Division Public Affairs and Religious Liberty director (EUD PARL);

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