On May 2nd, the European Parliament made a short presentation of their report Persecution of minorities on the grounds of belief or religion (short presentation), of which The European Times has transcribed the English version of the presentations. For any inconsistencies please verify against the original (here).
MEP Roberts ZĪLE: Now, we are moving to the next point for today’s agenda. It’s a short presentation. Short presentation of a report by Mr Karol Karski. Persecution of minorities on the grounds of belief or religion. I give you the floor for 4 minutes.
MEP Karol KARSKI: Thank you very much, Madam President. Ladies and gentlemen, during this session, we are discussing this report on the persecution of religious minorities in the world. It’s a very wide topic, and it’s also difficult to summarize it in one document. When we were working on the text, I wanted to show a full picture of the situation on various continents and a certain map of problems for different religions or atheists. I needed to use a certain methodology. I needed to grade the problems, and I needed to see which religions are mostly attacked and the countries in which these events are the most frequent. And after analyzing many documents, I think I was able to do so. It turns out, what is probably not surprising, that the most persecuted religious group are Christians, then Muslims and then Jews. The first ones have been persecuted in as many as 145 countries. And for example, atheists have been repressed and persecuted in 18 countries. I’m talking about this because this information was not included in the final form of the report. I don’t know if it was because of political correctness or what was it, but in the report, most political groups did not want to mention any minorities or countries where the persecution is taking place. And it has been a standard right now when it comes to documents, including reports on human rights, where for many years we have not been talking about concrete countries.
And I think it weakens our position. However, the report which we were able to negotiate, still has many important points. It comprehensively lists forms of persecution. It points to the difficult situation of women in many countries, and it also stresses out that all persecution should meet with a decisive reaction from the country itself and the international community. It talks about the religious sites and religious artefacts. We are also giving very concrete proposals for the EU institutions on how to react to persecutions and infringements of rights, including cooperation with churches, religious groups and human rights defenders. What is also important is the recommendations, which should be periodically assessed and updated in cooperation with all these groups. Religious, religious-based persecution should also be a part of countries’ strategies of the EU, and our delegations should pay attention to these issues.
To sum up, I think this report fulfils its role. It should point to the attention of public opinion and EU institutions on the persecution of religious groups, atheists and the attacks that are directed at them in many places in the world. I regret that we could not be more precise and concrete in showing particular countries and particular regions, even though in many places in the report reading from the context, you may realize what I’m talking about. I know that in several articles, some MEPs wanted to vote separately. There are also some amendments. I think that you may support them. I would advise you to support these amendments. And I also want to help to thank all the shadow rapporteurs. Thank you very much.
MEP Peter VanDalen: Thank you, president. I co-operated on this report. Particular attention to the persecution of religious minorities is scant in this Parliament. I was pleased to be involved in producing this report. We need to look at specific names and organizations persecuted because of their religious beliefs. No names were listed in the report and that is a shame. I would point to a report put together by the Intergroup for Religious Freedoms. I am co-chair together with another MEP and in this report, you can see what happened between 2017 and 2021 and you will see many tangible examples of individuals persecuted for their religious beliefs. So I would urge you to download this report and read it. We in the Parliament need to follow up on this, and I would urge the Commission to look at religious persecution. This has taken far too long.
MEP Bert-Jan RUISSEN: Thank you, President. My thanks also to the rapporteur for presenting this report. A useful report on the persecution of religious minorities. I share his concerns with Mr Van Dalen. Christians are barely named in this report. I think that is a shame. I really don’t understand the fact that in this report the faithful are criticized for their position on abortion. It is indefensible. This is a subject that goes beyond the scope of this report. It is not the point of the report. Last but not least, it is important that we protect life, including the life of the unborn. We shouldn’t be criticizing the faithful. We should praise them for their concerns and their care for the life of all. Thank you.
MEP Soraya RODRIGUEZ RAMOS: In this parliament, we’ve spoken about religious minorities, a number of different reports on human rights, which touch upon the persecution of all minorities, religious and others. But we have also wanted in this particular report to not put together a hierarchy of suffering, but we wanted to speak about the instrument fertilization of belief or religion in the creation of legislation which deliberately persecutes individuals. The criminalization of different groups and now go beyond religions and confessions. But the LGBT groups, for example, in Uganda and legislation which discriminates against women as well. And here we ought to remember there are a number of countries which still have not ratified the Istanbul convention. So indeed, this is very important. But let’s go beyond faith as well. Thank you very much to the rapporteur.
MEP Miriam LEXMANN: Thank you very much. Dear colleagues, from Nigeria to China, the state of religious freedom continues to deteriorate from genocide to legal restrictions. Hundreds of millions of believers, be there Christians, Muslims, Buddhists or other groups, are facing terrible suffering every day. Why? Our welcome. The EP’s report on the persecution of Religious Freedom. I cannot help but to express my dismay at the way this report has been hijacked to the to stigmatize religion itself. Today, religious persecution is one of the key drivers of many of the challenges the world faces. And that is why not an ideological anti-religious stance, but firm support for the persecuted around the world, together with the appointment of a new Special Envoy for Freedom of Religion, supported with the right instruments, must be the priority. Thank you.
MEP Carlo FIDANZA: Thank you, President. In the Religious Freedom Intergroup, we’ve been expecting this report for some time. And I’d really like to thank colleague Mr Karski, who has worked very hard on this report and also on the negotiations following on from it. Unfortunately, I agree with colleagues that despite the exceptional efforts, this negotiation proved very difficult. All the references denouncing the situation in which millions of the faithful, first and foremost Christians accounting for 80%, but also Bahai, Uyghur, Rohingya and many others were taken out. And also references to the regimes from China, Nigeria to Pakistan responsible for that were taken out. We’re saying that they’re suffering for their faith, but not saying whose fault it is. Also, the topic of abortion, a resolution, a very important resolution, is being used to assert an ideological agenda. For this reason, and I close with Mr President, together with other colleagues, we’ve tabled a number of separate vote amendments because we want to be free to defend those suffering because of their faith without having to go along with the only way of looking at things or left house.
MEP Stanislav POLČÁK: Yes. Thank you, President. I also call for freedom of religion, which is linked to the freedom of expression, and those are fundamental human rights. And breaching these rights is unacceptable. It is equally unacceptable to say to try to persecute believers by restricting their human rights or breaching their lives or integrity. All these crimes have to be prosecuted. Unfortunately, many of these crimes are not reported or remain unpunished. It is surprising that in this century, in this decade, we still have countries where religious laws, for example, on blasphemy, I have priority over national law. That is unacceptable. And we should focus on the tools that we do have that I mentioned in the report. Development aid and, uh, trade agreements. We should use these tools to make the 26 of March a day of victims of religious persecution so that we really done something.
MEP Eugen TOMAC: Thank you, President. I grew up in the Soviet time in the USSR in Ukraine, and I know that there was this ban on spiritual identity with churches banned then and now. There’s the situation that we see when Patriarch Kirill, alongside Putin, is for some interests we don’t understand allowing these attacks on Christians in Ukraine and the demolition of churches. I’ve been in a number of countries with the European Parliament in Iraq, where I met with the Patriarch of Babylon and saw what it means to be a Christian in Iraq and what it means to have that identity there. And that’s the importance of debating these topics. And I congratulate those who initiated this report. Thank you.
Commissioner Janusz Wojciechowski: Thank you very much. Mr President, honourable members of the European Parliament. The European Union defends the right of every individual to freedom of religion and belief. Marginalization and scapegoating of persons belonging to religious minorities and atheists can be an early warning or already sign of more severe persecution that in turn can drive to conflict and even a wider crackdown on the whole society. I would like to thank the rapporteur, Mr Karski, and all members of the European Parliament who have contributed to this timely report on the persecution of minorities on grounds of belief or religion, which provides clear recommendations on how the European Union should continue to spearhead the protection and promotion of freedom of religion or belief. Her. We take good note of some key recommendations, such as the need to increase public diplomacy on freedom of religion or belief, to work on the situation of minorities in conflict situation and the protection of religious citizens, as well as the strong call to the European Union to continue its firm action at the multilateral level in line with the European Union Action Plan on human rights and democracy. Freedom of religion or belief remains an essential priority of our external, external human rights policy. Accordingly, many EU delegations have enshrined it has a priority in their human rights country strategies. Let me assure you that the EU stands in solidarity with the victims.
The line with all our partners across the world is clear. The European Union has consistently and equivocal condemns discrimination, intolerance, persecution and violence against or by any person based on grounds of religion or belief. We call on countries to protect the right for everybody to have or not have a religion or belief to manifest or to change their religion or belief. While condemning the criminalization of apostasy and the abuse of blasphemy laws. Over the past year, we carried out key actions to promote and protect freedom of religion or belief, such as raising our concerns of violent violations in around 20 human rights dialogues. Issuing high-level statements such as an EU declaration on the occasion of the International Day commemorating the victims of religious persecution. And for all our work in multilateral fora, the latest resolution on freedom of religion or belief adopted by consensus during the last Human Rights Council session renewed the mandate of the UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief. In addition, we also closely exchange on freedom of religion or belief with regional organizations, in particular, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation through regular senior official meetings or the Istanbul Process. We look forward to continuing to cooperate closely with the European Parliament in identifying and addressing the most serious violations of freedom of religion or belief around the world. Thank you.