Aid Agency Lauds Europe's Defense of Christians

EU Foreign Affairs Council to Discuss Furthering Religious Liberty

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BRUSSELS, Belgium, JAN. 28, 2011 (Zenit.org).- Aid to the Church in Need is lauding the efforts of several European institutions to raise awareness of the plight of Christians who have suffered attacks recently in countries such as Iraq and Egypt.

The aid agency released a statement ahead of a Monday meeting of the Foreign Affairs Council of the European Union, which will discuss stepping up measures to promote religious liberty.

On Jan. 20, the European Parliament adopted a 19-point resolution on "The Situation of Christians in the Context of Freedom of Religion," and on Thursday, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe adopted a 17-point recommendation on "Violence Against Christians in the Middle East."

The aid agency noted that its 2010 report on "Religious Freedom in the World" was one of the sources used in drafting the Parliament's resolution, which urged European officials to "pay increased attention to the subject of freedom of religion or belief and to the situation of religious communities, including Christians, in agreements and cooperation with third countries as well as in human rights reports."

Neville Kyrke-Smith, U.K. director of Aid to the Church in Need, stated that the charity is "pleased that the European Parliament has recognized the reality facing Christians in so many parts of the world."

He noted that his agency "has continually highlighted what people endure for their faith in order to call for prayer and action for those who are suffering for Christ today," and he appealed to the European authorities to take action to promote religious freedom worldwide.

Legitimate demands

The agency underlined statements by Catherine Ashton, E.U. High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, who said on Jan. 19, "I think we can all agree that these attacks are unacceptable, perpetrated by extremists with an agenda of intolerance that must be condemned and resisted."

She affirmed, "Long-established Christian communities in the Middle East face difficulties, which have led to significant displacement in some countries and dwindling numbers in the region as a whole."

"The E.U. will not turn a blind eye to their plight," Ashton affirmed. "We consider their demand to have their rights respected as citizens of their own country as entirely legitimate."

In Monday's meeting, the Council of the European Union's Foreign Affairs Council members plan to debate the impact of the anti-Christian attacks detailed in the Parliament's resolution.

Most notable among the recent attacks against Christians mentioned by the European Parliament are a Dec. 30 wave of 11 bomb attacks that killed two Christians and wounded 16 in Iraq; an Oct. 31 massacre at the Syrian Catholic cathedral in Baghdad, which that day claimed more than 50 lives; and a Jan. 1 bombing at the Coptic Church of the Saints in Alexandria, Egypt, which claimed the lives of 21 people.

The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe's recommendation further mentioned a Christmas episode in Cyprus, and underlined the need to address the problems that have led to the disappearance of Christians from that region.

The recommendation affirmed that "freedom of thought, freedom of conscience and freedom of religion, including the freedom to change one's religion, are universal human rights."

Aid to the Church in Need is slated to publish this year a biennial report on the oppression of Christians titled "Persecuted and Forgotten?"

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On the Net:

Text of EU Parliament resolution: Text of EU Parliament resolution: http://www.europarl.europa.eu/sides/getDoc.do?pubRef=-//EP//TEXT+TA+P7-TA-2011-0021+0+DOC+XML+V0//EN&language=EN

Text of Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe recommendation: http://assembly.coe.int/Mainf.asp?link=/Documents/AdoptedText/ta11/EREC1957.htm