11/16/2007, 00.00
ASIA – EUROPE
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European parliament condemns persecution of Christians

A resolution is approved by a near unanimous vote condemning violence and injustice against believers. Even though its list of offenders is not complete, it shows Asia as the continent with the largest number of countries violating religious freedom.

Brussels (AsiaNews) – Iraq, China, Vietnam, Turkey, Pakistan, Gaza and the Philippines have placed Asia in the unenviable position of being the continent with the most numerous violations to religious freedom. Condemnation for such violations came this time from the European parliament which adopted a resolution by a margin of 57 to 2 with one abstention with regards to “serious events which compromise Christian communities' existence and those of other religious communities.”

Referring to various international agreements and conventions that protect human rights and religious freedom and citing a list of violations of violations of religious freedom, the resolution strongly condemns a plethora of acts of violence. 

In the text, the European parliament “[u]rges the governments of the countries concerned to improve the security situation of the Christian communities; stresses therefore that the public authorities have a duty to protect all religious communities, including Christian communities, from discrimination and repression;” and calls on European Union institutions to raise the issue at a political level with the countries where violations occur.

The resolution mentions some cases that AsiaNews has already covered. They include the abduction of two Iraqi priests, Fathers Pius Afas and Mazen Ishoa, on 14 October 2007 in Mosul (Iraq); the murder of a Chaldean priest, Fr Ragheed Ganni, and of three deacons on 3 June 2007, in Mosul; the attack on a Christian church on 10 October 2007 in Godwinh on the outskirts of Lahore (Pakistan); the assassination of Protestant Bishop Arif Khan and his wife on 29 August 2007 in Islamabad; the murder in Gaza of Rami Khader Ayyad, owner of a Christian bookstore, on 7 October 2007; the attack on the Christian publishing house Zirve on 18 April 2007 in Malatya (Turkey) in which three Christians, Tilmann Geske, Necati Aydin and Ugur Yuksel, were murdered; the kidnapping of the Catholic priest Giancarlo Bossi in the Philippines.

In the resolution Europe’s highest legislative body also noted  “the seriousness of the situation regarding religious freedom in the People's Republic of China, where the authorities continue to repress any religious expression, particularly by the Catholic Church, many of whose members and bishops have been imprisoned for a number of years and some of whom have died in prison,” as well as in “Vietnam too, [where] the activities of the Catholic Church and of other religions have been severely repressed, as demonstrated by the serious situation facing the communities of Vietnamese 'montagnards'.”

In the text the European MPs equally deplore “the murder of two young Copts, Wasfi Sadek Ishaq and Karam Klieb Endarawis, on 3 October 2007, in Awlad Toq Garb in Egypt,” and “the seriousness of the situation of Christian communities in Sudan, where the Khartoum authorities continue to repress its members.”

The list of violations of religious freedom is not comprehensive. For instance, India is not mentioned despite the frequent acts of violence and intimidations visited upon Christians; nor are Central Asian republics, which keep religious groups under very tight control and jail believers, included. Neither North Korea, where the Church has been literally wiped out, nor Russia, which approved a bill discriminating against ‘non-national religious groups, are on the list.

Lastly, no mention is made of Israel even though it continues to deny visa and transit as well as study permits to non-Israeli or Palestinian seminarians.

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