EU Ministers Balk at Condemning Anti-Christian Violence

by Hilary White

BRUSSELS, February 15, 2011 ( – The Council of Europe has done it and so has the EU Parliament, but the EU’s Foreign Ministers have balked at a call to condemn by name the escalating violence and discrimination against Christians in the Middle East. At a meeting on January 31, EU’s 27 Foreign Ministers rejected a draft resolution condemning atrocities against Christian minorities in Egypt and Iraq out of fears of “political incorrectness.”

The European Union’s High Representative for Foreign Affairs, Baroness Catherine Ashton, said the 27 ministers had to “go back and reflect” on how, in the course of backing religious freedoms and tolerance, they could “make sure we recognise individual communities of whatever religion who find themselves being harassed or worse.”

The discomfort at mentioning Christianity was shared by the representatives of some heavily secularized Scandinavian countries as well as the UK.

The failure of the foreign ministers to back the draft resolution follows the swift passage of a similar document by the EU Parliament on January 20, 2011 that condemned attacks “which compromise Christian communities’ existence and those of other religious communities.” The resolution condemned persecutions of Christians in Egypt, Nigeria, Pakistan, the Philippines, Cyprus, Iran, India and Iraq.

The document also pointed to incidents of religious discrimination against Christians in Europe and called on Ashton’s office to create a strategy to enforce the human right to freedom of religion.

The Council of Europe, the larger body of 47 member states, also said in a report titled “Violence against Christians in the Middle East,” that “the situation has become more serious since the beginning of the 21st century and, if it is not properly addressed, it could lead to the disappearance, in the short term, of Christian communities from the Middle East.”

The two documents called for various states to establish a monitoring body for religious persecution, the development of comprehensive asylum policies for religious refugees and help to relocate Christian refugees.

At the time the EU parliament’s resolution was passed, Ashton said, “The EU will not turn a blind eye to the persecutions of Christians around the world.” Earlier, Ashton had “unreservedly” condemned the attack on a Coptic church in December in Egypt that killed 23 people. She said, “The right of Christian Copts to gather and worship freely must be protected.”

The foreign ministers’ reticence was criticized by Italian foreign minister Franco Frattini who said the draft proposal showed an “excess of secularism.”

“The final text didn’t include any mention of Christians, as if we were talking of something else, so I asked the text to be withdrawn, so in fact it has been withdrawn,” he said. The move to withdraw the resolution was backed by the French minister, who wanted to mention Christians by name, as well as Shi’ite Muslims.

Italian MP Luca Volontè expressed his disappointment, saying, “The incapability to stand up as one European voice against the atrocities inflicted recently upon Christians in large parts of the worlds is absolutely incomprehensible, especially after the two unequivocal texts adopted by the Parliament and the Council of Europe.”

Maltese MEP David Casa said, “How is it possible to properly condemn these atrocities without any mention of the targets?”

“If we intend spending tax payer’s money to draft pieces of paper stating that people should not be blown up in general we should all just pack up and go home.”

“Perhaps our High Representative should be better informed as to who she is representing? We have become incapable of condemning attacks on our fellow Christians - What a sad day for Europe!”

The Commission of Catholic Bishops’ Conferences of the European Community (COMECE) said they “very much regret” the ministers’ “diplomatic wavering.”

“This diplomatic wavering is all the more incomprehensible as innocent lives are being cut short in atrocious attacks against Christians and other minorities all over the world,” a COMECE statement said.

“The recent attacks against Christians are not isolated cases. Statistics on religious freedom in recent years show that the majority of acts of religious violence are perpetrated against Christians.”

Fabio Bernabei, head of the Rome-based rights group Centro Culturale Lepanto, commented that the ministers “are pathological anti-Christian elites who plot in decision-making in Brussels in conjunction with the directions of the media conglomerates.”

Father Waldemar Cislo, director of the Polish section of the international charity Aid to the Church in Need, condemned the “politically correct” obsession of some EU ministers.

“It looks as if Europe forgets Christianity again in the name of some strange principles of political correctness.”

The mass murder of Christians during religious services in political hot-spot countries, including the murder of 58 Iraqi Catholics in Baghdad in October and 23 Coptic Christians in Egypt in December, have caught international headlines; but Aid to the Church in Need estimates that as many as 170,000 Christians are killed out of hatred for their beliefs around the world each year, largely in Muslim dominated countries.

In his message for January 1st World Day of Peace, Pope Benedict XVI said that politicians have a special duty to defend the human rights of Christian believers being persecuted around the globe. Such attacks, the pope said, are “a threat to security and peace, and an obstacle to the achievement of authentic and integral human development.”

“It is painful to think that in some areas of the world it is impossible to profess one’s religion freely except at the risk of life and personal liberty,” the pope said. In a probable reference to official European anti-Christian sentiment, Benedict added, “In other areas we see more subtle and sophisticated forms of prejudice and hostility towards believers and religious symbols.”

Aid to the Church in Need issued a report on anti-Christian incidents around the world for 2009-2010 that found that “in every third country” real religious freedom does not exist; cases of overt discrimination against Christians were found in over 70 countries.

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