Churches tell French EU presidency of concerns about persecution of Christians in Iraq

– Clive Leviev-Sawyer

Representatives of two European church groupings, in a meeting with a senior representative of the French presidency of the European Union, expressed concern about the rights of minorities around the world, especially where Christian minorities are persecuted, and discussed “the dramatic situation of Iraqi Christians whose extinction would signify a major injustice”.

Representatives of Churches in Europe (Commission of the Bishops’ Conferences of the European Community – COMECE – and Conference of European Churches – CEC) had talks in Paris on November 21 2008 with French state secretary for European Affairs Jean-Pierre Jouyet. CEC is group of about 120 Orthodox Christian, Protestant, Anglican and Old Catholic Churches from all countries of Europe, plus 40 associated organisations.

In a media statement, the two church groupings called on the EU member states and the EU institutions to make respect for religious freedom, which is a fundamental right, a major plank of their foreign policy.

“Extinction” of Christians in Iraq would mean a major injustice, the church groupings’ statement said. “It would mean that the dialogue between cultures is not anymore possible and that ethnic and religious communitarism prevails over the universality of human rights.”

The statement said that discussions at the meeting focused on institutional issues such as the future of the EU and the Lisbon Treaty and on the global financial crisis.

The church representatives expressed their wish to see the Sunday rest day being better protected in national legislations as well as in the future EU working time directive which currently is being revised.

“In our societies and in our economies, where efficiency has become the ultimate criterion of valuation, Sunday rest allows the individual to be placed at the centre of
society and calls attention to the fact that he is free and not the slave of work,” the church groupings said.

In view of the meeting of the European Council for Justice and Home Affairs on November 27, the delegation of Church representatives also raised several issues related to refugee resettlement and to the return policies in the European Union.

“The delegation emphasised the need for a truly common EU policy on migration and asylum, which protects the human rights of refugees, asylum seekers and migrants, and which regards integration as a two-way process, involving both migrants and
host communities.”