GENEVA, May 29, 2013 ( – During a presentation at a UN conference in Geneva this week, a top Vatican official said that “credible research” has reached the “shocking” conclusion that an estimated “more than 100,000 Christians are violently killed because of some relation to their faith every year.” 

At the 23rd Session of the Human Rights Council Interactive Dialogue on May 27, Archbishop Silvano M. Tomasi, Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the United Nations, said that the Holy See is “deeply concerned” over increasing violations of religious freedom. Archbishop Tomasi pointed to systematic attacks on Christian communities in regions of the world such as Africa, Asia and the Middle East, and the increasing marginalization of Christians in western societies. 

“The serious violations of the right to freedom of religion in general and the recent continuing discrimination and systematic attacks inflicted on some Christian communities in particular, deeply concern the Holy See and many democratic governments whose population embrace various religious and cultural traditions,” he said. 


The archbishop said that Christians and other believers are also subjected to forced displacement, the destruction of their places of worship, rape, and the abduction of their leaders. 

He cited the recent kidnapping of the Greek Orthodox Metropolitan of Aleppo and Iskanderun, Boulos Yazigi, and the Syriac Orthodox Metropolitan of Aleppo, Yohanna Ibrahm. The two were abducted in April by armed men while they were travelling to Aleppo from Antakya (the Turkish name for Antioch), a Turkish town on the Syrian border where they were carrying out humanitarian work. 

The Orthodox metropolitan’s office issued a statement saying the abductors killed Ibrahim’s driver, but the two metropolitans were not injured. They are still being held captive in Syria

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“Several of these acts have been perpetrated in parts of the Middle East, Africa and Asia, the fruit of bigotry, intolerance, terrorism and some exclusionary laws,” said Archbishop Tomasi. 

The archbishop told the UN Human Rights Council that while western countries continue to benefit from the social contributions of the Catholic Church, marginalization of religious principles in public life is restricting the ability of Christians and other faiths to carry out educational and charitable works. 

“In some Western countries where historically the Christian presence has been an integral part of society, a trend emerges that tends to marginalize Christianity in public life, ignore historic and social contributions and even restrict the ability of faith communities to carry out social charitable services,” Archbishop Tomasi said. 

He noted that that Human Rights Council has recognized that “religion, spirituality and belief may and can contribute to the promotion of the inherent dignity and worth of the human person.” 

The Christian religion, he said, as other faith communities, is “at the service of the true good of humanity.” 

“In fact, Christian communities, with their patrimony of values and principles, have contributed much to making individuals and peoples aware of their identity and their dignity.” 

Archbishop Tomasi identified educational endeavors run by the Catholic Church, from kindergartens to universities, which are comprised of well over 200 thousand schools educating more than 60 million students worldwide. 

“The Church’s worldwide charity and healthcare centres include 5,305 hospitals; 18,179 dispensaries; 547 Care Homes for people with Leprosy; 17,223 homes for the elderly, or the chronically ill or people with a disability; 9,882 orphanages; 11,379 creches; 15,327 marriage counselling services; 34,331 social rehabilitation centres and 9,391 other charitable institutions.” 

“To such data about social action activity,” he further said, “there should be added the assistance services carried out in refugee camps and to internally displaced people and the accompaniment of these uprooted persons. 

“This service certainly doesn’t call for discrimination against Christians,” the archbishop stated. 

Archbishop Tomasi concluded by citing the words of Pope Francis I regarding the celebration of the 17th centennial anniversary of the Edict of Milan, a proclamation that “opened the way to religious freedom.” 

On May 16 the Holy Father sent greetings to the city of Milan and visiting dignitaries on the occasion of the 1700th anniversary of the Edict of Milan, signed in 313 by Constantine and Licinius, respectively the emperors of the western and eastern parts of the Roman Empire, “for the importance given to the memory of the historic decision that, decreeing religious freedom for Christians, opened new paths to the Gospel and decisively contributed to the birth of European civilization.” 

The pope expressed the desire that “civil authorities everywhere respect the right to publicly express one’s faith and to accept without prejudice the contribution that Christianity continues to offer to the culture and society of our time.” 

The full text of Archbishop Tomasi's statement to the UN Human Rights Council is available here