Religion has long been underestimated, especially in Europe, as a factor in politics, particularly in international relations. Yet globalisation has led to greater religious diversity worldwide, which requires more tolerance and respect. Religion is a strong political and social shaping force in almost all regions of the world. New peace efforts and challenges in international relations require greater religious competence and sensitivity in foreign and security policy and a willingness to work in partnership with religious communities.
In the past two decades, religious minorities (often Christians, but not only) have come under increasing pressure and persecution in many countries.
Religious freedom is a good indicator of the human rights situation in a country. If it is not guaranteed, the general human rights situation is almost always bad.
For this reason, the former EU Commission under itsPresident Juncker has created the office of a Special Representative for the promotion of religious freedom. We are pleased to have as our guest the first holder of this office, His Excellency Dr. Jan Figel, who will speak about his work and his experiences as Special Envoy for Freedom of Religion or Belief outside the European Union and answer our questions.
We would like to thank the Hanns Seidel Foundation for their generous support of this series of events, which also invites all participants to a small reception afterwards.
Dr. Ján Figel’ has undertaken pioneering work as the first Special Envoy for the Promotion of Freedom of Religion or Belief (FoRB) outside the European Union. After a distinguished career in both academia and politics in Slovakia, he was appointed a Commissioner of the European Union for Education, Training, Culture and Youth. He took part in founding the Christian Democratic Movement (KDH) in Slovakia and was appointed the First Deputy-Prime Minister of the Government of Slovakia and Minister of Transport, Construction and Regional Development 2010-2012. He was serving as Vice-President of the National Council of the Slovakia Republic between 2012-2016 when he was appointed Special Envoy for Religious Freedom.
Dr. Heinrich Kreft M.A., B.A. (USA), holds the Chair for Diplomacy II at Andrássy University Budapest and is Director of its Center for Diplomacy. Previously, he was Ambassador of the Federal Republic of Germany to the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg (July 2016 - August 2020), Special Ambassador for Intercultural and Interreligious Dialogue and for International Academic Relations, and Deputy Head of the Planning Staff of the Federal Foreign Office. Other assignments in his 35-year career have taken him to Washington, Tokyo, Madrid and La Paz.
In between, he was a visiting fellow at the Henry L Stimson Center, the Heritage Foundation, the Brookings Institutions, the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars and the Transatlantic Academy of the German Marshall Fund of the United States in Washington, DC.
Heinrich Kreft studied political science, modern history and sociology at Juniata College, Huntingdon, PA (USA) , at the Institut d'Etudes Politiques de Paris and the Institut des Hautes Etudes de L`Amérique Latine of the Sorbonne Nouvelle as well as at the Westfälische Wilhelms Universität Münster. He has published extensively on international relations. Most recent publications on China and the broader Middle East.