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Government reps say Christian survival in Middle East ‘in question’

Christians protest in Beirut

Persecuted: Christians who had fled the unrest in Syria and Iraq carry placards and wave flags during a gathering in front the United Nations house in Beirut on February 28.
Photo: CNS/Nabil Mounzer, EPA

IN a joint statement, representatives of more than 50 countries have recognised that Christians are particularly endangered in the Middle East, and they called on the international community to reaffirm the human right to freedom of religion.

The violence carried out by terrorist groups “creates the risk of complete disappearance for the Christians” in the region, they said.

Catholic News Service reported that the statement, submitted to the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva on March 13, was sponsored by the delegations of the Holy See, Lebanon and Russia. The United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, Australia, Iraq and Israel were among the 52 signatories.

Ongoing conflicts in the region had been “disastrous for the entire population” and had “seriously threatened” the existence of “many religious communities”, the statement said. People continued to fall victim “to barbaric acts of violence” and “churches and ancient shrines of all religions have been destroyed”. But the statement then zeroed in on the Christian situation.

Zenit reported that the Vatican’s Permanent Observer to the UN Archbishop Silvano Tomasi said the statement, “Supporting the Human Rights of Christians and other Communities, particularly in the Middle East”, underscored that those being persecuted due to their faith in the Middle East required the attention of the international community.

Archbishop Tomasi said the statement was “an act of solidarity with those Christians and persons from other communities suffering from grave and continuous violations of their human rights”.

“While highlighting the perilous situation that Christians face in that region,” he said, “the statement clearly recognises the abuses that are suffered by persons from any religious, ethnic and cultural background simply because they want to exercise their freedom of religion and belief without being persecuted or killed.”

The archbishop said the declaration had been formally accepted and signed by a wide number of States, “which manifests a positive political will to support human rights and to move toward an elimination of these violations”.

It notesd that the existence of many religious communities was seriously threatened and Christians were so affected that, “These days, even their survival is in question”.

Meanwhile, Zenit also reported that following his Sunday Angelus address yesterday (March 15), Pope Francis appealed for peace following a terrorist attack at two churches in Lahore, Pakistan.

Suicide bombers bombed the churches during Sunday services, killing 14 people and wounding 70. According to Al Jazeera news, Jamatul Ahar, a Taliban splinter group in Pakistan, had claimed responsibility for the bombing. One church was Roman Catholic, the other from another Christian denomination.

The Pope said he received the news with “much sadness” and prayed for those who were killed and wounded in Lahore. “Our brothers and sisters shed their blood solely because they are Christians,” he said. Assuring his prayers for the victims and their families, the Pope invoked the Lord to bring peace to Pakistan.

He followed with a strong appeal, expressing his hope that “this persecution against Christians, that the world tries to hide, may end and that there may be peace”.

The Holy Father has made numerous appeals to the international community to protect Christians, especially in the Middle East, saying that the Church shared “an ecumenism of blood”.

“The blood of our Christian brothers and sisters is a testimony which cries out to be heard. It makes no difference whether they be Catholics, Orthodox, Copts or Protestants. They are Christians! Their blood is one and the same,” the Pope said on February 16, following the murder of 21 Egyptian Coptic Christians in Libya.

CNS and Zenit

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