On 1 December senior religious leaders, victims of faith-based persecution, and members of the European Institutions gathered at the European Parliament for a conference “The Persecution of Christians in the World: A call for action.” The event was organised by European Parliament vice-president Antonio Tajani and focused on worldwide persecution of Christians.
CEC President Rt Rev. Christopher Hill KCVO, DD offered opening remarks related to two personal encounters with the persecution and harassment of Christians. He spoke of a marginalised Christian village in Malaysia suffering from near-total lack of basic infrastructure, and also of a region in Nigeria nearly totally void of Christians due to violent persecution at the hands of Boko Haram. “The persecution of Christians is neither simple nor uniform,” noted Hill, “Especially were ISIS and its ideology reigns, Christians are definitely persecuted, churches destroyed, and the ancient churches of the birthplace of Christianity are on their way to almost extinction.”
Other presenters echoed concern for the end of Christianity in some places in the world. Dr John Newton from Aid to the Church in Need remarked that nearly 700,000—or more than half—of Syria’s Christians have fled during the recent conflict. He also noted that there are only 300,000 Christians left in Iraq following a decade of conflict and strife.
Case studies on the situation in Balkans, Pakistan, Sinai, Iraq, and Eritrea were presented by experts in the field.
The standing-room only crowd was deeply engrossed by the story of torture survivor Helen Berhane. She was arrested and imprisoned in a shipping container for refusing to sign a document denouncing her Christian faith. Following efforts by Amnesty International, Berhane was released and now lives in Europe.
European Parliament President Martin Schulz ended the conference with assurance that the “Parliament will make its contribution wherever it can to protect Christians.”