Op-ed written by Charlie Weimers , Member of the European Parliament for the Sweden Conservatives and Reformists Group (ECR), Chair of the ECR Working Group on Religious Freedom, Member of the Foreign Affairs Committee
Yet again hypocrisy reigns high on the European Parliament’s agenda. The European Parliaments report on Human Rights and Democracy in the World in 2019 is a case in point. One would expect that human rights for all would be central in the draft report, including the mentioning of the continued and growing persecution of Christians around the world. Alas, that was not the case at all.
The persecution of Christians was not even mentioned once in the original text. The resolution only denounced “cases of discrimination, intolerance, persecution and killings linked to religion or belief” in a very general sense. This is, of course, fully inadequate. Christians are the target of about 80% of all acts of religious discrimination or persecution, according to the International Society for Human Rights. Moreover, Open Doors, estimates that attacks on churches have risen by 500%, from 1,847 cases in 2019 to 9,488 in 2020!
In comparison, the persecution of LGBTI persons was highlighted 26 times in the text. Therefore, my political Group, the European Conservatives and Reformists in the European Parliament, pushed to also include the persecution of Christians. This was rejected by the left and liberal groups. Their reason: “one does not chose to become LGBTI, but one does chose one’s religion”.
The left’s response is outrageous, incredibly ignorant and dangerous. By suggesting that if Christians would change their religion they would not face persecution, they blame the victim rather than the perpetrator. The statement also brings to mind the choice given to Christians in the Middle East, Africa and Asia by Islamist violent extremist: convert to Islam or face persecution or death.
The recent murder of two Christian sisters, Abida and Sajida in Pakistan who continuously refused to convert to Islam, is a particular heart-wrenching example. Unfortunately, their murder is not a standalone case; over the years, Christians in Pakistan are murdered and tortured for refusing to convert to Islam. In addition, Muslims, who have converted to Christianity often face death, either at the hands of their compatriots or even as part of a state policy in several countries in the Middle East, such as in Iran. Christians face massacres in several parts of Africa, like in Nigeria, a country that has been coined as the world’s ‘biggest killing ground of Christians’ by the International Christian Concern charity.
This makes the left’s assertion and utter disregard for human rights of Christians even more abhorrent. It also goes to show that the left does not defend human rights universally – as they claim – and inadvertently side with the extremists in denying others their human rights and even the most basic principle: right to life.
In order to ‘right’ the wrong, my colleagues and I, proposed amendments to the report, which included specific references to the persecution of Christians in the world and the call for increased European engagement to protect them. Although opposed by the socialists, greens, liberals and communists, these amendments did receive support from a slight majority. Despite finding some solace in this small victory, it does intrinsically worry me that many on the left in Europe are completely blind to the injustice and despair faced by Christians globally.
As MEPs it is our moral duty to speak out in the defence of Christians all around the world. If we do not speak up, then who will? If we hold our tongues because they chose their faith, then I would like my left and liberal colleagues to explain: how is this anything other than saying, “shut up and convert”?