At the cost of 5 million Euros the European Union has distributed some 3.2 million calendars over more than 21,000 schools. The calendar’s purpose is to inform children between 12 and 16 about EU policies, and next to that, like virtually all calendars, it contains the important dates of the year: holidays and religious feasts and the like. All, except for all Christian holidays and feasts.
Eid ul Fitr is there, as are Sukkot, Divali and other Muslim, Jewish and Hindu feasts. Dutch Christian MPs have expressed their amazement on Twitter, with ChristenUnie head André Rouvoet tweeting: “What would the EU agenda be with distributing school agenda listing all holidays except the Christian? Unbelievable!” SGP chair Kees van der Staaij shared that he has sent questions about this, to the Minister of Foreign Affairs, calling it “no mistake, but the world upside down”. Twittering priest, Fr. Ruud Verheggen, concludes that “it shows where [they] stand”.
It would be a pretty remarkable mistake to make: to go and take the effort to list all major religions’ holidays and completely missing the Christian ones. It’s not as if Christians are a minority in the EU, after all. A conscious decision, then? It would fit with the attempts from the EU to curtail the rights of religious expression in its member states (classroom crosses in Italy, anyone?), but surely the EU, with all its talk about democracy and freedom, won’t skip over the religion and the rights of the vast majority of its citizens? Right?
It’s only a calendar, you might say. Yes, but it is one that is used by the EU to present itself to a couple of million school-going children. What does this then say about how the EU sees itself and its values?