Malta’s pro-lifers part of European extremists that want to roll back sexual and reproductive rights

Religious fundamentalists inside extremist Agenda Europe campaign want to fight human rights on sexuality and reproduction, with Maltese members in its midst playing an active part

A report by the European Parliamentary Forum on Population and Development (EPF) has identified a group of religious extremists with a strategy and campaign against human rights on sexuality and reproduction, with Maltese members in its midst.

EPF is a network of members of parliaments from across Europe who are committed to protecting the sexual and reproductive health of the world’s most vulnerable people, both at home and overseas. No Maltese MPs form part of the EPF.

According to the report, published back in April, an “extremist” group with ties to the Vatican includes the participation of Maltese NGOs.

The EPF document can be read in its entirety here.

The EPF report identified this group as Agenda Europe, a network of conservative and religious campaigners from the United States and several European countries with a mission to roll back human rights for sexual and reproductive health in Europe.

The EPF report mentions at least one Maltese NGO, Life Network Foundation Malta (LNFM), as actively participating in Agenda Europe summits, which serve to strategise a militant campaign against political and legal advances related to sexuality and reproduction.

Head of LNFM Miriam Sciberras and LNFM member Mary Hilda Camilleri were mentioned in the EPF report as having been present at an Agenda Europe Summit in Warsaw, Poland on 26 September 2016. This is reportedly an annual event, gathering approximately 150 religious activists.

Who are Agenda Europe?

Agenda Europe is the only European network dedicated to bringing the main European NGOs together to design a common strategy to advance an anti-sexual-reproductive-rights (SSR) agenda. 

The movement started out as a blog back in 2013. It was entitled Agenda Europe and the first post was a critique of the legal and political advances in human rights in relation to sexuality and reproduction, an innocuous and modest enough beginning. 

The EPF report suggests that the idea for Agenda Europe crystallised in 2013 at a strategic retreat in London which brought together approximately “20 pro-life leaders and strategic consultants from North America and Europe to network and discuss two main issues: developing a Christian-inspired European think-tank, and developing strategies for the pro-life movement in Europe.”

The report says that participants are offered a reception and an inspirational keynote speech. Both Camilleri and Sciberras, representatives of LNFM, were present for a keynote speech by Rocco Buttiglione, the Italian conservative politician who was rejected as Italy’s nominee to the European Commission and a vociferous critic of sexual and reproductive rights.

In the morning, the participants celebrate holy mass and then sit for workshops that analyse “critical strategies covering areas including surrogacy, religious freedom, euthanasia, marriage, and the rights of the unborn.”

Thousands gather for anti-gay demonstrations in Paris
Thousands gather for anti-gay demonstrations in Paris

According to the EPF report, Agenda Europe took another further step forward in 2015 presenting five distinct thematic strategies, namely:

• a strategy against euthanasia

• a strategy for religious freedom

• a strategy for marriage and the family

• a strategy opposing anti-discrimination legislation

• a strategy against surrogacy

Documents have recently emerged which reveal a detailed, extremist strategy called Restoring the Natural Order: an Agenda for Europe, which seeks to overturn existing laws on basic human rights related to sexuality and reproduction, such as the right to divorce; for a woman to access contraception, assisted reproduction technologies or have an abortion; equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans or intersex (LGBTI) persons; or the right to change one’s gender or sex without fear of legal repercussions.

How are the Maltese involved?

The Maltese NGO mentioned in the EPF report, Life Network Foundation Malta, has been a protagonist in protests against legislation passed under the current labour administration.

The judicial protest against Malta’s Medicines Authority in an attempt to impede the introduction of the morning-after pill was spearheaded by the same group.

LNFM also protested against the Marriage Equality Bill of 2017, as well as the IVF bill last April.

Protestors calling for the removal of abortion laws in Paris, France
Protestors calling for the removal of abortion laws in Paris, France

The Maltese NGO is a member of the international group One of Us, a federation of 16 organisations self-proclaimed pro-life. In 2014, this federation of NGOs, through a European Citizens’ Initiative, pressured the European Commission to prohibit the allocation of funds to any activities that might result in the destruction of human embryos, to prohibit financial aid for stem cell research, and to prevent financial contributions to any organisation that offers abortion services.

The EU had replied by saying that the One of Us initiative would not be endorsed by the EU since the same initiative aims to blockade the EU from fulfilling its aims, particularly those relating to the mother’s health.

The Manifesto

EPF have revealed excerpts from a 134-page Agenda Europe manifesto. It claims that the arguments are not based on religious belief but rather on Natural Law. “There is a Natural Law, which human reason can discern and understand, but which human will cannot alter.”

The manifesto urges for the overturning of the cultural revolution, to turn back the hands of time in matters of marriage and civil liberties.

Protestors in Madrid, Spain in 2017; the ‘anti-transgender bus’ has written on the side: Boys have penises, girls have vulvas, say no to  gender indoctrination
Protestors in Madrid, Spain in 2017; the ‘anti-transgender bus’ has written on the side: Boys have penises, girls have vulvas, say no to gender indoctrination

“We have a narrow time window of ten to twenty years left. If we do not use this time window, then the Western Civilisation, due to having embraced a perverse ideology, may easily have destroyed itself,” the anonymous author of the manifesto says.

The document goes into detail about the methodology that should be employed to convey these principles. “We should not be afraid to be unrealistic or extremist,” it says, and even suggests that the best strategy is to “use to weapons of our opponents and turn them against them.”

The EPF report makes it clear that Agenda Europe’s politics are imbued in religious discrimination and are advocating nothing less than hate.

It’s not yet an all-out right-versus-left battlefield especially since Agenda Europe seems to be working within the confines of secrecy and anonymity thus far, a kind of ideological guerilla warfare where members are seeding encouragement to far-right supporters with varying degrees of success.

Who is funding them?

The EPF report notes that several participants at the meetings merit attention for their well-attested connections to conservative donors.

These are Vincente Segu, Archduke Imre of Hapsburg-Lorraine and Oliver Hylton.

Sir Michael Hintze is a British-Australian businessman, and Conservative Party patron, based in the United Kingdom, a climate-change denier funding the Agenda Europe cause
Sir Michael Hintze is a British-Australian businessman, and Conservative Party patron, based in the United Kingdom, a climate-change denier funding the Agenda Europe cause

Vincente Segu, who heads the Mexican anti-SRR organization Incluyendo Mexico, is well connected with the Mexican billionaire Patrick Slim Domit, a funder of the anti-abortion movement in Mexico and globally, and the son of one of the world’s richest men, Carlos Slim.

Archduke Imre and his wife, Archduchess Kathleen, representing the Hapsburg-Lorraine family (the former imperial family of Austria), have extended their patronage to a range of anti-SRR initiatives.

A third person present at the meetings was Oliver Hylton. Hylton was the asset manager for a UK Conservative party donor, Sir Michael Hintze, himself known for his financial support to a climate-change denying think-tank and is a donor to the European Christian Political Movement, a political party at the European level that unites national parties from across Europe that share Christian democratic politics.

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