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Circumcision: Iceland proposal. Joint Declaration by European Christian Churches, it encourages “climate of growing antisemitism and islamophobia”

“Should this proposal go through it risks inspiring similar initiatives in other European countries and beyond. In a climate of growing antisemitism and islamophobia this could encourage such tendencies elsewhere, increasing the pressure on often already vulnerable communities”. This “trenchant” view was expressed in a joint statement issued this morning by the Christian Churches of Europe – through their two representative bodies, CEC and CCEE – with regard to a proposal tabled in the Icelandic parliament (Althing) which aims to ban the non-medically indicated circumcision of male children. If the proposal were made into law, parents could be sentenced to up to six years in prison if they have religious circumcision performed on a boy child. CCEE and CEC expressed their “great concern”: “This move – they wrote – would not only amount to an infringement of the fundamental human right of Freedom of Religion or Belief, but would also be perceived as a signal that people with a Jewish or Muslim background are no longer welcome to Iceland”. The Churches noted that “circumcision has for thousands of years been practised by religious communities across the faith spectrum; it is a fundamental feature of religious practise in Judaism, Islam and some Christian traditions, such as the Ethiopian and Eritrean Orthodox churches. Circumcision is not an optional ceremony, but at the very core of religious practice. It is with this particular religious rite that male children are welcomed to their religion, providing them a sign of God’s covenant with humanity. For these communities, it is an integral expression of faith”. CCEE and CEC stated that “a ban on circumcision in Iceland would amount to outlawing two world religions, Judaism and Islam, and their adherents. This law would render a xenophobic image of Iceland in a religiously and culturally diverse world”. The views expressed – the two organisations underlined – refer to male circumcision only. “This compulsory religious rite must not be confused with the cruel practice of female genital mutilation that constitutes an assault on the bodily integrity of women, violating their basic human rights and dignity”.

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