“Violence toward Christians in some countries has aroused the disdain of many, especially because it has manifested itself in the most sacred days of the Christian tradition”, said the Holy Father on Sunday January 10 after the recitation of the Angelus, a few days after the murder of six Coptic Christians on January 6, the solemn day of the Epiphany. “It is necessary that both political and religious institutions — I emphasize this — do not neglect their responsibility. There cannot be violence in the name of God, nor can we think that we honor him by offending the dignity and freedom of our equals”, was the appeal of Benedict XVI. The murders in Egypt in January were followed by several attacks against churches and places of worship in Malaysia. For this reason the Secretariat of the Commission of the Bishops’ Conferences of the European Union (COMECE) welcomes the resolution adopted by the EP past January 21 condemning the recent attacks on Christian communities in these two Countries.Egypt and Malaysia. In a communiqué released January 26 COMECE describes these acts of violence as “a major infringement of human rights” and urges the EU “to promote efficient and determined diplomatic action”. The COMECE Secretariat states, “The European Union should support religious minorities – including Christian communities – who are today being persecuted around the world” and recalls that “75% to 85% of all the religious persecution in the world is directed towards people of Christian faith, and each year 170,000 Christian people lose their life because of their faith”. The EP resolutions – COMECE underlines – echoes a resolution adopted by the Council of Ministers of the EU on 16 November 2009, which reaffirmed “the strong commitment of the European Union to the promotion and protection of freedom of religion or belief” and “its intention to continue to give priority to the issues as part of the European Union’s human rights policy”. On the basis of these firm statements, COMECE calls upon the EU High Representative for External Relations, Baroness Catherine Ashton, “to translate this priority into action to be taken up by the new European External Action Service which is now her responsibility and which is now in the process of being set up”. With the explicit intention of assisting EU decision makers to implement specific measures to promote freedom of religion in the external relations of the EU, the Bishop members of COMECE set up an expert group tasked with the drafting of a Memorandum on the promotion of freedom of religion in the world. The text reports on persecutions in this field worldwide and puts forward a series of recommendations to the European institutions Once adopted by the COMECE Bishops on the occasion of their next plenary Assembly (14-16 April 2010), the Memorandum will be presented to EU decision makers. Iraq. For years COMECE has undertaken similar initiatives, raising awareness on the suffering of Christians in the Middle East. In November 2008 Secretary General Piotr Mazurkiewicz expressed satisfaction over the conclusions of the Council for Justice and Internal affairs, which a few days earlier from Brussels had called upon Member States to grant reception to Iraqi refugees. “Member States – Mazurkiewicz said on that occasion – should jointly take the responsibility of meeting the objective indicated by the Council, according to which some 10 thousand vulnerable refugees must be granted reception in the European Union in 2009”. At the same time, the Secretary had launched an appeal to the EU and its Member States “to raise – in their contacts with the Iraqi government – the crucial theme of the protection of the Christian community, now under threat of becoming extinct, and of the other religious minorities”. Since December 2009 Mosul witnessed attacks on churches, the kidnapping of a Christian student and the bombing of a school bus with Christian pupils.Other 14 Countries. Not only Egypt, Malaysia and Iraq; according to the latest Report on “Religious Freedom in the World”, published by the association “Kirche in Not” (Aid to the Church in Need), minorities – notably Christians – are oftentimes the victims of violence and of violations of religious freedom in Saudi Arabia, Bhutan, China, Cuba, Iran, North Korea, Laos, Maldives, Myanmar, Nigeria, Pakistan, Sudan, Turkmenistan and Yemen. At the end of 2009 Vatican news agency Fides published the list of “pastoral workers” who died of violent death in the course of the year: 37, of whom 30 priests, 2 religious, 2 seminarians, 3 lay volunteers. Of them, 23 were killed in America; 11 in Africa; 2 in Asia and one in Europe. “Almost twofold the figures of 2008 – states Fides -. It’s the highest death-toll recorded over the past ten years”. While with reference to the recent acts of violence in Egypt, Malaysia, Pakistan and Iraq, also The Wall Street Journal asks to devote further efforts to defend Christian minorities: “the world ignores the persecution of Christians in the Muslim world … few groups have suffered as much as Christians in Muslim lands. And less still received such a scarce amount of attention”.
COMECE welcomes EU Parliament resolution