Church representatives from the European Union (EU) have voiced regret at the lack of reference to churches and faiths in a major new human rights document drawn up by the EU.

''This decision not to mention our religious heritage denies an aspect of Europe's history," said Keith Jenkins, director of the Church and Society Commission of the Conference of European Churches (CEC), which brings together most of Europe's Protestant, Anglican and Orthodox churches.

Jenkins was reacting to the text of the Charter of Fundamental Rights, agreed at an EU summit in Biarritz, France, on October 14. An acknowledgement of Europe's "religious heritage" had earlier been left out of the charter's preamble at the insistence of the French prime minister, Lionel Jospin, whose country has a long tradition of the separation of church and state.

The charter is intended to set out a common basis for the respect of human rights throughout the EU, although it is not expected to be legally binding on the EU's member states. The charter affirms the right of individuals to take part in religious activities, but it fails to acknowledge the role of churches.

Jenkins said that leaders of CEC's 127 member churches had been disappointed that the reference to Europe's religious heritage had been left out of the document, which was drawn up by a 62-member convention following a decision at an EU summit in Cologne in 1999.

"But this was just one government's response—we mustn't misinterpret it as being somehow a rejection of religion," Jenkins told ENI.

"Since the preamble tries to lay down the foundations of Europe's identity, some people naturally wanted a reference to religion. But it was recognized that Europe is now effectively multi-religious."

Besides reaffirming ...

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