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‘Persecution against Christians happens even in democracies’

A top Vatican official welcomes the UK-commissioned Persecuted Christians Review at an event in Rome, and says Christians in certain countries risk being completely purged, while in some democracies they face discrimination for standing up for their beliefs regarding life, marriage, and the family.

By Devin Watkins

Released on the Monday, the Persecuted Christians Review details a recent surge in violence against adherents to the faith around the world.

The report was commissioned by the UK Foreign Secretary, Jeremy Hunt, and prepared by Anglican Bishop Philip Mounstephen, of Truro.

Around 215 million Christians faced persecution in 2018 and an average of 250 Christians were killed every month, according to the Foreign Office. Women and children are particularly vulnerable to forms of sexual violence.

Indifference and impunity

The Vatican’s Under-Secretary for Relations with States, Msgr. Antoine Camilleri, spoke at the Rome Launch of the Review, held at the Basilica of St. Bartholomew.

Quoting Pope Francis with language also used in the report, Msgr. Camilleri called persecution against Christians a “sort of genocide caused by general and collective indifference.”

He lamented the impunity surrounding crimes committed on the basis of religion and the limited attention the media gives such discrimination.

“We have witnessed attacks upon individuals and groups of various religious backgrounds by terrorists, extremist groups and religious fanatics who have no respect for the lives of those who have beliefs different from their own,” he said.

Msgr. Camilleri said religious persecution against Christians should worry adherents of other faiths as well, since it hits at the most fundamental human freedom, which is to choose freely a religion.

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Occurs in established democracies

The Review focuses mainly on persecution that occurs in the Middle East, Africa, and Asia.

But Msgr. Camilleri expanded the scope to include other forms of discrimination and persecution that are carried out “even in established democracies”.

There is a growing tendency, he said, “to criminalize or penalize religious leaders for presenting the basic tenets of their faith, especially regarding the areas of life, marriage, and the family.”

He called this type of discrimination “less radical on the level of physical persecution” but “nevertheless detrimental to the full enjoyment of freedom of religion and the practice or expression of that conviction whether in private or public.”

Right to religious freedom

Religion, said Msgr. Camilleri, can help unify societies and promote peace in its quest for the common good.

“The right to religious freedom is rooted in the very dignity of the human person,” he said, “and it is not only an achievement of a sound political and juridical culture but also a condition for the pursuit of truth that does not impose itself by force.”

16 July 2019, 16:24