VILNIUS, LITHUANIA – Andras Corban-Arthen, current President of the European Congress of Ethnic Religions (ECER) has been re-elected to serve another five year term as President. Mr. Corban-Arthen has served as president since 2011 when its first president became ill and could no longer serve out his term.
ECER was founded in 1998 to preserve and revitalize the indigenous, ethnic religious traditions of Europe and to “oppose discrimination against such groups.”
Corbin-Arthen says he has been honored to serve as president is proud of the re-organizational plan which called for greater involvement from the members, the development and procurement of necessary resources, and for ECER to increase its activism in pursuing its mission.
“I convened a steering committee which met monthly for well over a year, and we proposed a number of changes to the statutes governing the ECER, which were adopted at last year’s Congress in Prague,” explained Corban-Arthen.
“The members of that committee proved to be very dedicated and reliable, and now almost all of them have been elected to the Board, which means that we now have a much more solid and engaged leadership team.”
He also drew up a published declaration, the first such document produced by the ECER since its founding declarations, which addresses the difficulties faced by practitioners of the European ethnic religions, such as violations of the right to religious freedom, the preferential treatment of some religions over others, the Christian indoctrination of children in many educational systems, and the desecration or destruction of Pagan sacred sites and government prohibitions of their use for religious purposes.
The ECER also takes an interest in religions and cultures outside of Europe. Last year, Corban-Arthen traveled to Standing Rock and delivered a declaration of support for the First Nations peoples protesting the Dakota Access pipeline.In his next term, Corban-Arthen hopes to further implement his reorganization plan. He says that the organization will focus on, “…public education, and on advocacy on behalf of our members; on developing connections with influential people in government, in the media, in academia, etc.; on establishing a legal fund to bring cases of religious discrimination to the Court of Justice of the European Union, or the United Nations Commission on Human Rights; and on partnering with local cultural & historical organizations to help protect indigenous sacred sites throughout Europe.”
He also plans for the ECER to participate actively in the U.N. Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues and is looking to bring the European Congress of Ethnic Religions to Spain.
Corbin-Arthen says the ECER, and Europe, are facing challenging times. “There’s been a lot of political and economic turmoil in Europe left over from the recession, and the current immigration crisis is only intensifying that turmoil and is rapidly de-stabilizing many European countries.”
He says that these problems can negatively impact European ethnic Pagans in particular. “The present conditions are fuel for xenophobia, racism, and ultra-nationalist attitudes which are giving rise to neo-fascist, white supremacist extremist groups,” says Corbin-Arthen.
To add confusion of the situation, many of these newly formed groups are describing themselves as indigenous, Pagan, and ethnic, and some are even actively trying to infiltrate ethnic Pagan groups. He says that the ECER is now more careful with their membership procedures.
At the same time, Corban-Arthen also notes, some Christian churches are reacting to the widespread secularization of Europe by painting all ethnic Pagan groups as extremists and accusing them of committing violent and seditious acts.
“It’s very difficult to be caught in that kind of crossfire, and unfortunately it’s probably going to get worse before it gets better,” says Corbin-Arthen.