Protection to be reinforced

Testimonies and proposals to the European Parliament

Religious freedom must be incorporated in the external policies of the EU, adding to accords with third countries a binding clause relating to respect for this right: that’s the main request of the written Declaration presented on 5 October by the MEPs Mari Mauro (EPP Group) and Konrad Szymanski (ECR Group) on the occasion of the conference “Persecution against Christians”, promoted by COMECE (Commission of the Episcopates of the European Union), and by these Groups at the European Parliament, in collaboration with Kirche in Not and Open Doors International. This Declaration should be presented to the plenary session of the EP in the weeks ahead. To be adopted it would have to be signed by 380 MEPs within three months. A “clear” political vision. An appeal to the international community to protect Christians in Iraq, who “risk extinction” was made by Mgr. Louis Sako, Chaldean Archbishop of Kirkuk, in Iraq. “From the US invasion of Iraq in 2003” to the present day, the archbishop pointed out, “51 churches have been assaulted; one bishop and three priests have been kidnapped and assassinated; roughly 900 innocent Christians have been killed and hundreds of thousands forced to leave their homes. In Iraq and in other countries there’s a risk that the Christian community will be extinguished”. What especially worries the archbishop is “the lack of a plan”. Hence his appeal: “We need stronger support from everyone, with a clear ‘political’ vision and precise plans not only to protect and encourage Christians to remain in the country, but also to promote reconciliation between Iraqis, defend human rights”, and “make sure that governments respect the rules”. According to Mgr. Sako “the international community must assume its own responsibilities”. Lastly he expressed the hope that the Synod of the Churches of the Middle East (Rome, 10-24 October) “would arouse attention to our problems”. It “can be an opportunity to review the whole situation of Christians in the Middle East”. Let us hope, he concluded “that it will prove highly productive”.Nobody says “stop” to the killings. “Can this conference suggest to the EU to put pressure on the United Nations to reinforce its legislation on the defence of the rights of minorities and especially those of Christians?”. That’s one of the three pleas with which Mgr. Eduard Hiiboro Kussala, Bishop of the Catholic diocese of Tombura-Yambio in Southern Sudan, concluded his speech to the conference in Brussels. The bishop also asked that a Commission on international religious freedom be established within the UNO and that such “atrocities” as “homicides and persecutions” with a religious motivation be prosecuted by the International Criminal Court. With reference to the referendum on the future of the country due to be held on 9 January 2011, which could, according to the bishop, lead persecuted Christians to opt for secession, Mgr. Kussala declared: “Minorities, and in particular Christians, have a need for the support of the international community for a peaceful referendum that may favour permanent peace”. From the international community they expect solidarity and support. And yet, he concluded, “in the so-called civilized nations of the Christian West nobody says ‘stop’ to the killings of Christians”.A long suffocated cry. An appeal “to the members of the European Parliament and to the international community to help convince the Vietnamese government to resolve in a peaceful way” the situation of Christians belonging to the indigenous population of the degar, and to respect the UN treaties it has ratified, was also made by Kor Ksor, President of the Montagnard Foundation. “The cry of my people has long been suffocated by the repressive power of the government”, said Ksor describing a minority that has been brutally persecuted with military attacks that spray villages with lethal chemical substances, with arrests and torture, and with the forcible imposition of the Evangelical Church of Vietnam which is in reality “a front used by the military strategy to maintain the population under government control”. “Violations of the right to religious freedom and religious faith are being ascertained all over the world and affect some 100 million people” said Arie de Pater, director of Open Doors International. According to the World Watch List annually drawn up by Open Doors (an organization that assists persecuted Christians in 45 countries), the top ten States with the worst persecution records consist of North Korea, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Maldives, Afghanistan, Yemen, Mauritania, Laos and Uzbekistan. Berthold Pelster (Kirche in Not) also made an appeal for the support of persecuted minorities: “It’s especially politicians who must help”. Describing the activities of his organization, he explained that its “specific task” is to “handle contacts with these minorities, instil them with courage, rebuild burned down churches and give financial aid for pastoral work”. “We wish to be the voice of those who cannot openly speak”, he concluded, expressing the need to “join together in support of the forces” in favour of “societies that are tolerant, based on freedom, and founded on the democratic rule of law”.

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