Flanders recognises first new local faith communities since 2016

Flemish Interior minister Bart Somers has recognised six new local faith communities, he announced at a press conference on Wednesday.

The six faith communities are the Bilzen ​ evangelical church in Bilzen, the Pottenbakker ​ evangelical church in Kortrijk, the Tauhid mosque in Pelt, the El Mouslimine mosque in Antwerp, the HH Georgios and Alena orthodox churches in Dilbeek and the Saint Georgios orthodox church in Turnhout.

New faith communities have not been recognised since 2016; the recognition of the last Flemish mosque dates back to 2013.

Shortened recognition procedure

For the 100 or so communities that had been waiting since the previous legislature, a one-off shortened recognition procedure of one year was provided. New applications for recognition normally have to go through a four-year process.

A total of 77 applications were declared admissible: 59 mosques, nine Orthodox churches and nine Protestant churches. Those local faith communities were thoroughly screened by the Information and Screening Service. The relevant provinces and municipalities gave their advice, along with a classified security opinion from the federal Justice minister.

"A stop was untenable and ignores the pluralism in our society, while we should embrace it as part of the Flemish reality"

Finally, the Information and Screening Service processes all these recommendations, combined with its own research, into an overall recommendation that is passed on to the minister, who decides whether or not to grant recognition. The first six have now been recognised.

"A stop was untenable and ignores the pluralism in our society, while we should embrace it as part of the Flemish reality," Somers said on Wednesday. "Thanks to this new decree, there is legal certainty and we choose dialogue and trust, with our Flemish local religious communities."


#FlandersNewsService | The Al Fath mosque in Ghent, the oldest mosque in Flanders © BELGA PHOTO NICOLAS MAETERLINCK

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