2 April 2014: FRH at the European Parliament
Concerned heritage professionals met today in the European Parliament to raise awareness of the threats facing Europe’s religious heritage buildings and their contents. Invited by MEP Peter van Dalen of the European Conservatives and Reformists Group, and arranged by Future for Religious Heritage (FRH) – The European network for historic places of worship – and Museum Catharijneconvent, the room was full to the brim with representatives from across Europe speaking up for the important social and economic potential that religious heritage carries.
Peter van Dalen (MEP) said: “I’m very glad we organized this event today because we need to do something to prevent the alarming loss of valuable religious heritage in Europe. I believe that the EU can support awareness raising, exchange of best practices and allow for existing EU cultural funds to be spent on saving and preserving churches and other types of heritage.”
The speakers threw light on current societal trends across Europe leaving numerous buildings under-used or entirely redundant. The prognosis of church closures in the Netherlands for example, is shocking. Up to 70% of protestant churches and two thirds of the Catholic churches are expected to close from today till 2025. Demographic change poses a threat to the heritage the buildings represent, which is a shared resource for all Europeans including non-faith communities.
There are innovative projects responding to the developments, such as the Plus Grand Musee de France, combining employment and skills development schemes for young people with heritage conservation and audience development. Such initiatives need support to grow internationally. A secular appreciation of religious heritage can contribute to the European social identity as well as deepen inter-cultural tolerance.