STRASBOURG, France, NOV. 21, 2007 (Zenit.org).- The European Parliament joined its voice to that of many Church leaders who are condemning the persecution of Christians in several nations.
With a resolution passed Nov. 15, the Parliament asked governments to protect the rights of all citizens and combat acts of discrimination and intolerance. The Parliament further promised that aid to countries will hinge on the condition of respect for religious freedom.
Mario Mauro, vice president of the European Parliament and primary promoter of the resolution, said in statements sent to ZENIT, “The persecution of Christians in the world is one of the fiercest contemporary challenges to the dignity of the person.”
The parliamentary resolution cited concrete cases of intimidation, abductions and assassinations in Iraq, attacks on Christian churches, the assassination of a Protestant bishop, a bombing at a school directed by missionaries in Pakistan, the assassination of a professor at a Christian library in Gaza and the assassination of two Coptic men in Egypt.
In addition, it deplored the abduction of Philippine Father Giancarlo Bossi, and condemned the assassinations of journalist Hrant Dink, Father Andrea Santoro, and three Christians at the Zirve publishing house in Turkey.
It emphasized as well the gravity of the situation of freedom of expression in China, noting the detention of the faithful and bishops. It also emphasized the current persecutions in Sudan, as well as the repression of the Church in Vietnam.
Mauro affirmed that “religious liberty is the litmus test to reveal if there is respect for all other freedoms and human rights.”
“For this reason, for the first time in history, the Parliament expressed a ‘strong condemnation’ of ‘all acts of violence against Christian communities, wherever they are,’ and petitioned the governments involved to deal justice to those who stain themselves with such crimes,” he added.
“As the murder in Gaza of Rami Khader Ayyad shows, this is only the tip of the iceberg and there are much more extensive and hidden actions in Palestine, in Lebanon, and in other areas of the region, where Christian communities, forced to marginalization, are reduced to the point of running the risk of extinction,” explained the parliamentarian.
The resolution recalled that the European Union “has expressed itself repeatedly in favor of the rights of religious communities and the protection of their identity, in whatever region of the world, as well as in favor of the recognition and protection of religious minorities, without distinctions.”
Noting the growing number of episodes of intolerance and repression against Christian communities in Africa, Asia and the Middle East, the European Parliament reaffirmed the defense “of the principles of freedom of thought, conscience, religion and free worship.”
It underlined “the laity of the state and its public institutions” and affirmed nations’ duty to “guarantee such freedoms, including that of converting from one religion to another.”
The resolution supported “the importance of dialogue between religions to promote peace and understanding among people” and urged religious leaders to commit themselves to oppose “extremisms and to promote reciprocal respect.”
“Thanks to the vote,” commented Mauro, “from now on, the European Commission should pay greater attention, so that the elaboration and implementation of programs for cooperation and development assistance will be granted only if the principle of true religious freedom is respected.”
“Europe, always on the frontline in defending the rights of the minorities, cannot continue ignoring the increase in the extermination of so many Christians,” he added.
“Today the European Parliament has given a big sign of political and cultural readiness,” Mauro concluded, “separating itself from that secularist fundamentalism of which Europe is more and more often accused.”