One of the goals of the Report is "emphasizing the responsibility of States in creating enabling environments to advance the non-discrimination and freedom of religion or belief rights of women, girls and LGBT+ persons."
The report also attacked religious beliefs when they were opposed to the so-called “new rights,” especially “LGBT rights”.
The Holy See and several NGOs sharply criticized the report, which they argued was based on a twisted interpretation of religious freedom, one that ultimately came to a sort of freedom from religion.
The Holy See lamented that "the Report seems to focus less on the protection of men and women, of any faith or personal belief, that are persecuted or discriminated against (a still too vivid reality for millions of persons worldwide), and more on pushing a vision of human society that is not shared by all and does not reflect the social, cultural and religious reality of many peoples."
The UN report can be interpreted as a signal that religious freedom will not be at the top of the international agenda.
The situation becomes more worrisome when you focus you eyes on Europe.
On May 6, 2016, the European Commission established the position of an EU Special Envoy for the promotion of Freedom of Religion and Belief outside of Europe. The Juncker Commission announced the establishment of the envoy on the very day Pope Francis was awarded the Charlemagne Prize. The new position set religious freedom issues among the priorities of the EU foreign policy.
Jan Figel was tapped for the position of special envoy.
In three years, Figel traveled a lot, established bridges of dialogue, and achieved some remarkable successes, notably the liberation of Asia Bibi, the Pakistani Christian woman convicted of blasphemy and sentenced to death. The woman won her final appeal, but she was in danger in her country. It was also thanks to Jan Figel that Bibi and her family were able to leave Pakistan and find a haven in Canada.
The commission headed by Figel did not address threats to religious liberty inside of Europe, but Asia Bibi’s acquittal and liberation showed that the European Union could act as a soft power in defending religious freedom.
This is one reason why there were expectations that EU leadership would confirm Figel in the envoy’s position, once the Juncker commission ended its mandate and following the EU elections,.
This was especially the case in view of the new EU policy priorities that focus on Africa, a continent where religion plays a great role. An EU official championing religious freedom in diplomatic talks would have been a natural choice.
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However, more than 100 days into the mandate, the EU commission chaired by Ursula van der Leyan has not decided yet. The question is: who is going to take care of the religious freedom issues in EU foreign policy?
There are three possibilities.
First: the Special Envoy for the promotion of freedom of religion or belief outisde the EU is re-established. This seems to be the more natural option.
Second: EU institutions can rely on the European External Action Service (EEAS). Within the EEAS, there is also the position of consultant of the EU Special Representative for Human Rights Eamon Gilmore. Merete Bilde was tapped at the post, with a particular focus on Religious Freedom and Freedom of Faith.
In this case, the option might be a downgrade of the portfolio of Freedom of Religion or Belief. In fact, there would not be a dedicated envoy, but just a consultant to a wider human rights portfolio.
Also, this option would be much weaker than what was initially called for by the European Parliament in the resolution recognising the atrocities perpetrated by ISIS as genocide in 2016, where it called for the establishment of an EU Special Representative on Freedom of Religion or Belief.