Hilary White, Rome Correspondent

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EU Foreign Ministers issue belated, weak statement against anti-Christian violence

Hilary White, Rome Correspondent

BRUSSELS, February 24, 2011 (LifeSiteNews.com) – The European Union’s Foreign Ministers were sharply criticised when they refused last month to mention Christians or Christianity in a draft statement condemning anti-Christian violence in the Middle East and Asia.

This week, the EU’s Foreign Affairs Council has issued a statement that mentions Christians only once in a nearly 500-word text and includes Muslim pilgrims and other religious communities in the same sentence.

The statement, “Conclusions on intolerance, discrimination and violence on the basis of religion or belief,” said the group European Dignity Watch (EDW), fails to address the nature of the violent attacks on Christians that are becoming more common in many Muslim-dominated countries around the world.

Blasting the “carefully worded” and “politically correct” statement, The EU watchdog group said that the “one reference to Christian victims is the bare minimum.”

“A more courageous message on the part of the European Union would have unequivocally condemned the atrocities committed exclusively on Christians,” said EDW.

“Such a statement would have been welcomed by both European citizens and the organizations working for fundamental freedoms, and would have been embraced by the victimized Christian minorities in the Middle East who need the ongoing support and solidarity of the EU.”

The five Foreign Ministers and EU High Representative Baroness Catherine Ashton were accused of bowing to “political correctness” by Members of the EU Parliament, including Italian foreign minister Franco Frattini, who said the draft proposal showed an “excess of secularism” and asked, with the support of the French minister, that it be withdrawn.

Maltese MEP David Casa said, “How is it possible to properly condemn these atrocities without any mention of the targets?”

“If we intend spending taxpayer’s money to draft pieces of paper stating that people should not be blown up in general we should all just pack up and go home,” he added.

This week’s statement from the Foreign Ministers follows two others, that did not hesitate to name Christians, from the Council of Europe and the EU Parliament on January 20.

In the last two years, violent attacks on Christians in the Islamic-dominated countries of the Middle East have escalated, and once-thriving Christian populations in countries such as Iraq are in danger of disappearing as more people flee. Attacks and often government-sanctioned discrimination come regularly in Iraq, Egypt, and Pakistan.

In the city of Bethlehem, once home to one of the oldest Christian populations in the world, only a fraction of the former number of Christians remain. In 1947, 75 per cent of the population of Bethlehem were Christian, but the number declined to 23 per cent by 1998 due to “emigration,” according to the city’s mayor in 2005. Both Muslims and Christians are emigrating, Victor Batarseh said, “but it is more apparent among Christians, because they already are a minority.”

Today, Christians make up less than 4 per cent of the population of the West Bank. Experts have predicted that the current population of about 12 million Middle Eastern Christians could dwindle to fewer than 6 million by 2025.

The US State Department has issued a security warning for US citizens travelling in Egypt that mentions the January 1st bombing of a Coptic Christian church that killed 23 people and injured 100 more. A shooting in Egypt last month killed a Christian man and injured five Christian women, and bombings in Nigeria on Christmas Eve killed at least 32 people.

In Pakistan, the governor of Punjab was murdered after he had called for a pardon for a Christian woman sentenced to death for blasphemy against Islam. Salman Taseer’s killer, his bodyguard Malik Mumtaz Qadri, said it was Taseer’s opposition to the blasphemy law that has prompted his act. Qadri was reportedly showered with rose petals by supporters upon entering the court for trial.

Six perished in a Christmas Day bombing of a Catholic Church on the island of Jolo in the Philippines and a string of bombings on New Year’s Eve in Iraq left two dead and at least 13 wounded.

The EU ministers are not the only ones coming under criticism for lack of action. Nina Shea, director of the Hudson Institute’s Center for Religious Freedom, told FoxNews.com that the world’s Christian populations are suffering partly due to a lack of decisive action on the part of the US government.

Shea said that when the Obama administration sent a condolence message after an October 31st church bombing in Iraq – that left 58 people dead and at least 78 wounded – it contained “a general condolence to Iraqis that didn’t even mention the word Christian or churches, even though it was a packed Sunday worship service for Christians that was blown up.”

For more information on anti-Christian violence and discrimination, visit: Voice of Martyrs

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