Sometimes I get asked, how can a majority be discriminated against? Well, it is not the nominal Christian who is fully aligned to society‘s mainstream, who suffers discrimination. It is those to strive to live according to the high ethical demands of Christianity, who experience a clash. Those are not the majority. And even if they were: History has shown that a leading minority can discriminate against a peaceful majority. Gudrun Kugler, Observatory intolerance and discrimination christians in Europe (Vienna), wrote in SIR Europes editorial (click here). I think that Europe - she added - Europe is ready for honest ‘reasonable accommodation when it comes to the clash between people of faith and a mainstream which seems to be at unease with religion. I ask you to be weary of horizontal equal treatment legislation: Such policies can inflict serious dilemmas on Christians. I recommend to participating states to combat underreporting by collecting disaggregated data on hate crimes against Christians. I recommend to OSCE to develop materials on how to combat intolerance against Christians and to disseminate this through the OSCE region. Combating persecution of Christians outside the OSCE area must become a priority of the foreign secretaries of participating states in their foreign policy, he concluded.
(Sir Europe - Brussels) - Nearly two thirds (64%) of young Europeans are willing to vote at the election for the European Parliament in 2014, while one third (35%) of them state they are unlikely to do it. The EU Commission published a survey about young peoples involvement in democratic life in the continent, in the run-up to the European Youth Week (26 May-2 June). Of those who are willing to vote, nine out of ten do it because they believe democracy, Europe and the European election are important. Of those who are not willing to vote, out of three think their vote will make no difference. The survey (based on an interview of 13 thousand young people last April) also shows that the under 30s are less inclined to vote than their parents and seem to be increasingly disappointed about the way politics works. Yet, the respondents ask for more opportunities and to have their say in political life. Young people show to have a strong European identity and to be more appreciative of the EU integration process than other age groups, the survey also found. Young people intending to vote are about or over 75% in Belgium, Netherlands, Sweden, Italy, Ireland, Luxembourg, Malta; conversely they are under 55% in Cyprus, Greece, Estonia, Czech Republic and Slovenia.
The Pope explained that Christian compassion — this ‘suffering with, con-passione — is expressed above all in our commitment to knowing the events that force people to flee their country and, where necessary, in giving voice to those who are unable to make their cry of sorrow and oppression heard. Pope Francis said that he admired the courage of those who hope to gradually resume a normal life, who wait for joy and love to return and lighten their existence. Then the Pontiff called on leaders and legislators, and the entire international community to address the issue of forcibly uprooted people with effective initiatives and new approaches so as to protect their dignity, improve their life quality and meet the challenges arising from modern forms of persecution, oppression, and slavery. It is, the Pope emphasised, human persons who call for our solidarity and support, who need urgent measures, but also and above all, who need compassion and goodness. God is good. Let us imitate God! Their condition cannot leave us indifferent. As a Church, when we heal the wounds of refugees, of the displaced, of victims of trafficking, we are practising the commandment of charity that Jesus left us when He identified with the stranger, the suffering, and all the innocent victims of violence and exploitation.
‘Human trafficking is an ignoble activity, a disgrace to our societies that call themselves civilized! Exploiters and clients at all levels should make a serious examination of conscience, within themselves and before God!. Pope Francis said this as he received in audience the participants in the Plenary Assembly of the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People (PCPMI). Today the Church - he declared - renews her strong call to always protect the dignity and centrality of each person, in respect of fundamental rights, as set out in her Social Doctrine, rights that she asks be concretely extended to the millions of men and women in every continent whose rights are not recognised. In a world in which there is so much talk about rights, the Pontiff noted with regret, human dignity is often trampled on! In a world in which there is so much talk about rights, it seems that the only one to have rights is money. Dear brothers and sisters, we live in a world ruled by money. We live in a world, in a culture ruled by the fetishism of money. But the Church is a mother and her maternal care is manifested with particular tenderness and closeness towards those who are forced to flee their native countries and live in-between rootlessness and integration. This tension destroys people. (continued)
(Sir Europe - Brussels) - Placing citizens at the heart of Europe at a time of change: this is the subject of the yearly meeting between the EU institutions and the leaders of the main churches and religious communities of the EU countries, due to take place on May 30th. This years strong focus on citizenship made the organisers think that the meeting should reflect, once again, on the role of citizens and society, and therefore of religious faiths, in the EU building process. The meeting will also discuss the forthcoming elections for the new European Parliament that will take place in one years time. The meeting is one of the new procedures laid down by the Lisbon Treaty, where article 17 sets forth open, transparent and regular contacts between the EU institutions and the European churches. Guests at the Berlaymont Palace in Brussels, the EU Commissions headquarters, include the president of the EU Executive, José Manuel Barroso, the president of the European Council, Herman Van Rompuy, and the deputy president of Strasbourgs Parliament, László Surján. Religious communities will be represented by about twenty leaders of Christian confessions, Hebraism, Islam and Hindus. An interim list posted by the EU Commission today also mentions mgr. Manuel Clemente, bishop of Porto.
(Sir Europe - Brussels) - Investing in education, training and research is the best investment we can make for Europes future. Each year, the EUs lifelong learning programmes (Erasmus, Leonardo Da Vinci, Comenius, Grundtvig) and the Marie Curie actions enable more than 400,000 people to study, work, volunteer or do research abroad. These experiences, European Commissioner Androulla Vassiliou stated, enhance their skills, personal development and job prospects, and can also contribute to overcoming the crisis. These words become particularly significant in the run-up to the sixth edition of the European Youth Week (26 May-2 June). Many events and initiatives are being held across Europe, which will provide a forum for discussion of issues such as active citizenship and youth participation in democratic society and in the European Parliament elections in 2014. In particular, Commissioner Vassiliou will host an event in Brussels on 31 May, organised by the European Youth Forum, to celebrate the 25th anniversary of EU youth programmes and the implementation of the Youth in Action programme. The event will include a two-day Youth Organisations Party, which will be attended by the leaders of youth national councils, and also meetings with a focus on structured dialogue with young people co-organised by the European Steering Committee.