The life of evangelical churches and their spiritual leaders has been portrayed in some recent films and series. Can they help us start conversations?
The resolution “Tackling intolerance in Europe with a special focus on Christians”, which was promoted by Moldovan MP Valeriu Ghiletchi was approved with 67 votes in favour, 2 against and 15 abstentions.
The Council of Europe approved in its Parliamentary Assembly this Thursday the 29th of January the resolution “Tackling intolerance in Europe with a special focus on Christians”, which was promoted by Moldovan MP Valeriu Ghiletchi. 67 voted in favour of the resolution, only 2 against and there were 15 abstentions (see complete results here).
Moldovan MP Valeriu Ghiletchi introduced his report by saying that “today Christians face intolerance in Europe.” It might be a “underestimated” fact because many find it “difficult to see Christians as victims.”
Ghiletchi pointed out some cases of intolerance: he mentioned “preachers arrested for publicly preaching on the streets,”and “people who lost their jobs because they objected”. “I provided many cases in my report”, he argued.
“On the positive note, awareness of this form of discrimination is increasing,” Ghiletchi said, so there is a need to “collect the best practices in European countries.” The “focus on the text is not on the description, but the search for solutions,” he added.
“The best response is based on common sense,” said Ghiletchi, because “fundamentalism does not help.” In this sense, he mentioned the “Global Charter of Conscience” (an initiative promoted by Os Guiness among others) as a text “that reaffirms and supports art. 18 of Human Rights” to stop “polarization and bitterness around religion.”
Ghiletchi also proposed “resasonable acoomodation” as a concept which has been successfully applied in Europe for disabled people. The Moldovan MP asked to apply this “to religious groups” in some cases.
“MORE FREEDOM OF RELIGION, NOT LESS”
In his final words, Ghiletchi argued that “in these modern times we need more freedom of religion, not less,” so that there can be a “peaceful coexistence in Europe.”
“The goal is to raise awareness and encourage and promote the culture of living together, wether someone believes or not.”
Ghiletchi defended his report from critics saying he had listened to many voices and accepted amendements during the committee phase.
Europe “should be a model to other places in the world, to show what it means to respect religious freedom”. He finally asked his colleagues to “go back home and promote it”.
EUROPEAN LEFT: “WE HAVE PROBLEMS WITH THIS RESOLUTION”
The spokesman for the European Left coalition, Mr. Kox from Netherlands, asked his colleagues not to support the resolution. “Although I agree with lots of things, I have a problem with this resolution and this report.” “The incidents together do not build evidence to say there is intolerance toward Christians in Europe,” he added.
Cox said he was far politically from Ghiletchi and argued that “conclusions in the resolution are not founded on solid grounds.”
SOCIALIST GROUP: “A BALANCED REPORT”
In their turn, the Socialist group in the assembly talked of Ghiletchi’s work as a “balanced report.” The spokesman thought it is important to “find ways to live together and not leave out anyone” and finally encouraged his peers to “support the report”.
EPP: REPORT IS “OUTSTANDING JOB”
The spokeswoman of the European People’s Party gave her “congratulation to Ghiletchi and the Council of Europe.” Ms. Quintanilla (Spain) said the report was an “outstanding job.”
“We need to talk about discrimination and intolerance,” she said and added that “through the media Christians are persecuted.”
Worldwide, she reminded, “480 million Christians suffer from persecution” , and mentioned the actions of terror groups like the Islamic State and Boko Haram. as an example of this
The EPP “greatly welcomes this report, because we understand the COE has to play a vital role in battling intolerance.” “Enough of intolerance against any religion, especially against Christians”, Campanilla concluded.
ALDE: “INTOLERANCE AGAINST CHRISTIANS IS INCREASING TREND”
Ms Fialla, from the Liberal group, also showed her group’s support to the report, saying that the “trend of intolerance against Christians is on the increase.” Still, she added, it is “a good sign that there is no single country of the COE among those were Christians are most persecuted.”
“We must make it our business to pursue peaceful coexistence in the 47 countries but also beyond in the wider world.” The Human Rights are the “foundation for any pluralistic society,” so “freedom of religion” needs to “be upheld,” she concluded, and therefore it is necessary to work against “stereotypes” and “prejudices.”
OTHER SPEAKERS DEBATED
Several other MPs were asked to give their opinions on Ghiletchi’s report. Mr Szczerski from Poland thought the report was important to fight against “Christianophobia,” which sometimes is promoted in the name of “modernization and europeization.” The polish MP also reminded that Europe’s roots come from “Greek philosophy, Roman Law, Christian view of Human dignity.” This is why there is a need to “combat all forms of violation and discrimination.”
Several other members MP’s mentioned Open Doors as a source to talk about the persecuted Christians not only in Europe, but mostly in other continents.
Lord Anderson from the UK said he “enjoyed the report” because it has “common sense.” Anderson said that Turkey seems to be “unwilling or incapable of offering protection for Christians so that they can exercise their religious freedom.” “We must look at our own records in every one of our countries,” he added.
From Turkey, Mr. Servi took the word to say it was “unfortunate” that the resolution focused almost only on Christians because the “extreme right” is promoting racism in Europe, especially by “demonizing muslim minorities.”
Mr. Ungaryan, from Ukraine recalled how he himself and his family had suffered intolerance in the URSS because of their Baptist Evangelical faith. He also denounced “persecution in Lugansk and Donetsk against the Kiev Orthodox Patriarchat, Catholics and Protestants.”
Specifically he explained the case of 4 members of a Protestant Church executed after being abducted in Sloviansk, on June the 8th. “More than 25 Catholic and Protestant Churches have been captured by the rebels,” he added
Ungaryan asked for a better protection of Christian minorities, including more facilities to register officially and being able to distribute religious literature.
EEA: RESOLUTION “WILL ENCOURAGE GOVERNMENTS TO ACT”
The European Evangelical Alliance had shown his support to Ghiletchi’s resolution, “Too often, governments don’t act. It’s as if they hope the problem will go away or that it is too difficult to resolve”, said EEA sociopolitical representative Julia Doxat-Purser to Evangelical Focus last week.
“Europe’s nations are made up of people of many faiths and worldviews. We have to work harder to promote a civil public square where people can be themselves and live according to their beliefs, while respecting the freedom of conscience of others. Governments ignoring or even encouraging religious intolerance damages freedom of religion and threatens social cohesion”.
After today’s Parliamentary Assambly approval, EEA hopes to “use this call to encourage governments, the media and employers to act more responsibly, to intervene when rights are denied and also to work towards a cultural and legal context where there is less intolerance and freedom of conscience restrictions”.