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Twentieth Session of the United Nations Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice

Vienna International Centre, 11-15 April 2011

SIDE EVENT ‘RELIGION IN PRISON’

Tuesday 12 April 2011, 12.30 - 13.45 hours

M Building – Conference Room M2

Organised by ICCPPC – The International Commission of Catholic Prison Pastoral Care

Speech IGGiÖ, Tarafa Baghajati

His Eminence Cardinal Schönborn, distinguished guests and friends,AssalmuAlaikum, Peace be upon you,

Allow me to start with a quotation from Quran:

76:8and they give food, out of love for Him, to the poor and the orphan and the captive –prisoner!

76:9we feed you, for Allah’s pleasure only — we desire from you neither reward nor thanks.

As we know it is not a matter of just giving food, but in addition love and compassion!

After consultation with our President Anas Shakfeh and my friend Dr. Mohamed Al Hassan, we would like to take this opportunity to congratulate the organizer, especially Dr. Christian Kuhnonthe for the efforts she has been making. May I share with you what we deem as the most important challenges facing us from our point of view as the Muslim Authority in Austria.These points cover in general the situation in many EU-Countries. Three minutes, five points:

1)     The institutionalization of our work: For the last 15 years, we have been offering spiritual assistance to 15 prisons in Austria. Our responsible spiritual leaders and Imams (about 30 including some very engaged sisters) are still working on volunteer basis. We do not have yet any infrastructure and therefore it is very difficult, if not impossible, for us to cover the necessity of individual spiritual care. However we are very happy to tell you that, last year, we signed the first contract with the ministry of justice which is a step in the right direction.

2)     Cooperation between the different religions and faiths: We think that in our time in which the people are longing towards spirituality, the necessity of working together and supporting each other is more important than ever. We ask you for your support and we assure you that we will provide you with our help whenever it is possible.

3)     Education for the prisoners: Almost all our prisoners have a very low education, especially the youth and there is a huge gap that needs to be filled today before tomorrow! Prisoners’ time should be actually fruitful time: It should consist of learning, reading, mediating and planning for the day of freedom and for the future after the prison. We need programs in the prison and after the prison.

4)     Education for the prisons’ employees: There is also a need to have programs for the employees regarding how they should deal with religious and cultural diversity, especially how to deal with Muslims and Islam.

5)     UN-international: We, as representative of the Muslim minority in Europe, could also support  building bridges to the Muslim World on international level. Especially demanding the rights of religious minority and also the political prisoners who mostly suffer under torture. Please feel free to contact us whenever you think we could help.

Finally many thanks again and looking for further solid cooperation with all of you in the near future.

Tarafa Baghajati,
baghajati [at] aon.at

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