European Parliament takes action to promote Religious freedom
Religious freedom must be incorporated into the European External Policies of the EU, by adding to Agreements with Third Countries a binding clause on the respect of freedom of religion. This is the main demand of a Written Declaration presented today by Mario Mauro MEP (EPP Group) and Konrad Szymanski MEP (ECR Group). The initiative was launched today on the occasion of a conference on "Persecution of Christians", which was organised by the two Groups and COMECE .
Violations of the right to freedom of religion or belief take place all over the world and it affects an estimated 100 million Christians every year. According to Open Doors International, in 2010, the top ten list of countries where Christians are most persecuted because of their faith, consists of North-Korea, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Maldives, Afghanistan, Yemen, Mauritania, Laos, and Uzbekistan.
The Conference gave the floor to major witnesses of Christian persecution over the world: Mgr Eduard Hiiboro Kussala, Bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Tombura, Yambio in South Sudan, Mgr Louis Sako, Chaldean Archbishop of Kirkuk, Iraq, Dr T.M. Joseph, Principal of the Newman College in Thodupuzha, India and Kok Ksor, President of the Montagnard Foundation (Vietnam).
Konrad Szymański MEP (ECR) recalled that: "75% of deaths linked to religion-based hate crimes affect people of the Christian faith, which makes Christians the most persecuted religious group in the world. Europe cannot remain indifferent. The EU must take co-responsibility for protecting religious freedom all over the world. Today, the mass suffering of Christians is still a crime that remains forgotten. We are here to remind the politicians of their responsibilities in this matter".
Mario Mauro MEP (EPP Group) stressed that: " Religious freedom is the condition through which all our other freedoms pass: freedom to express and profess the religion in which we believe means to escape the abuse of power. This is the reason why we need to insist on the defence of this principle and this is also why we initiated the Written Declaration in the defence of 'freedom of religion'".
Othmar Karas MEP, Vice-Chairman of the EPP Group responsible for Interreligious activities, emphasised that: "Non-discrimination is universal. Freedom of religion and non-discrimination go hand in hand. Religions are an important part of the European identity and therefore interreligious dialogue is crucial for political and European consciousness."
On the occasion of this conference, the COMECE Secretariat presented its 'Memorandum on Religious Freedom'. The text entails 11 recommendations addressed to the European Parliament, the European Commission, the Council and the European External Action Service of the EU so as to contribute, within their respective responsibilities, to the furtherance of religious freedom in the external relations of the EU. The Memorandum recalls that "the right to religious freedom is so closely linked to the other fundamental rights that respect for religious freedom is like a ‘test' for the observance of fundamental rights".
The Written Declaration initiated by the MEPs Mario Mauro and Konrad Szymański is foreseen be submitted to the Plenary in the next few weeks. It will require signatures of 380 MEPs within 3 months to be adopted.