Marcela Szymanski, Aid to the Church in Need
Aid to the Church in Need was invited to present its recently published report ‘Persecuted and Forgotten?’ and comment on possible solutions.
As ‘Red Wednesday’ was being observed in many countries around the world commemorating the sacrifice of the martyrs of their faith, the European Parliament held a Public Hearing in which for the first time it specifically sought to gather information about the global persecution of Christians. The Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) was invited to provide factual background information as contained in its recent 2015-2017 edition of ‘Persecuted and Forgotten?’, a biennial report on Christian persecution.
Marcela Szymanski presenting to the European parliament ACN’s recent 2015-2017 edition of ‘Persecuted and Forgotten?’, a biennial report on Christian persecution © European Union 2017
Presenting after the UN Rapporteur and the EU Special Envoy for Freedom of Religion, Marcela Szymanski of the ACN EU Office provided a summary of the main findings, and a country-by-country review of case studies. The report elicited interest especially in those countries where the members of the European Parliament were not as aware that Christian persecution was so acute such as, for example, in India, China and Nigeria.
As many of the preceding speakers had already described a realistic, dark picture of the growing persecution of Christians, ACN also provided some positive case studies, notably an update to the Nineveh Reconstruction Project - an effort by the charity to rebuild Christian homes, churches and religious institutions in Iraq following the devastation of ISIS. This last point received particular attention and unity of support by the parliamentarians as a concrete and positive example for this troubled region of how to help persecuted Christians return to their homes and in so doing help retain the plurality of Iraqi society.
The UN Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Religion, Ahmed Shaheed, indicated that in the coming months the UN will look especially to the situation of Christians in Indonesia, Pakistan and the North of Africa. Jan Figel, the EU Special Envoy, revealed that he is working with his colleagues to emphasise in their contacts with countries where persecution occurs that the most important concept to defend is ‘citizenship’, promoting equality to all regardless of their faith.
The members of the European Parliament concluded with a note of gratitude to the participants and for the insightful information as well as the need to review the instruments at their disposal to promote freedom of religion and religious literacy.
Aid to the Church in Need Public Affairs, through the dissemination of its ‘Religious Freedom’ and ‘Persecuted and Forgotten?’ reports as well as by facilitating first-hand testimony from project partners working on the ground, seeks to help inform policy-makers on issues related to the persecution of Christians around the world.