FRH’s letter on the Guardian: “Religious buildings are part of Europe’s heritage”

FRH’s letter on the Guardian: “Religious buildings are part of Europe’s heritage”

On 29 October 2015 FRH joined an important debate hosted by The Guardian.

Read our President’s letter on The Guardian

The Church of England’s Buildings Review Group is currently planning the future of its 15,700 churches. But across Europe there are over 500,000 churches, synagogues, temples and mosques – the continent’s biggest living museum of history, architecture and faith. Today, increasing numbers of these religious buildings are neglected as congregations dwindle or populations change. And money for their support, whether from public or private sources, is increasingly hard to find.

But a poll commissioned last year by the Future for Religious Heritage shows that an overwhelming majority of Europeans, with or without religious affiliation, have a strong attachment to their religious heritage and want it maintained for future generations. That’s because it represents an essential part of a shared cultural identity and also helps people understand the sometimes troubled history of Europe.

One way to ensure the future of religious buildings is to extend their use for social outreach and community activities such as concerts, conferences and exhibitions. At the same time places of worship need to be placed more firmly on the tourist map so that more people can appreciate the remarkable treasures they contain. Last month the European parliament adopted, by an overwhelming majority, a report on an integrated approach to cultural heritage for Europe. For the first time the parliament acknowledged that religious heritage constitutes an intangible part of European cultural heritage and that historical religious heritage must be preserved for its cultural value, regardless of its religious origins.

That’s an important first step. But now we need a real plan for religious heritage at a European level to make sure these historic buildings can be part of our future.

Olivier de Rohan

President, Future for Religious Heritage, Brussels

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