European Parliament for Human Rights: Christians in Iraq have the same rights as Muslims

On the 14th. Dec. a delegation of Iraqi Bishops visited the European Parliament in Strasbourg, where they addressed the parliament on anti-Christian violence:

We want Europe and the West to put pressure on the Iraqi government to guarantee the rights of Christians and of religious minorities
‘We don’t want to flee and abandon Iraq; we want to continue living here, but in peace. We are grateful to all the countries prepared to accept Iraqi Christians who are fleeing, but this isn’t the solution.To help Christians in Iraq it is necessary to guarantee security, to be able to profess one’s beliefs freely and to frequent places of worship without fear.’

(A more detailed report can be read here). The delegation includes Archbishop Casmoussa, Syrian Catholic Archbishop Atanase Matti Shaba Matoka of Baghdad, and Auxiliary Bishop Shelmon Warduni of the Patriarchate of Babylon of the Chaldeans.

The Statement of the European Parliament in response to the plea of the Iraqi Bishops is as follows:

Following his meeting with bishops from Iraq, the President of the European Parliament Jerzy Buzek stated:

“The European Parliament is aware of the terrible situation faced by Christians in Iraq. We learned with horror of the terrible loss of lives resulting from the attack on the Syriac Cathedral in Baghdad on 31 October. Even after this atrocity, attacks have continued on Christian targets in Iraq – Churches have been targeted, priests and lay people have been killed.

It is clear that there are some fundamentalist elements seeking to create sectarian division within the Iraqi society where Christianity has been an integral part of the fabric of Middle-Eastern society for two millennia. It is shocking to see the extent to which Christians have been forced to flee Iraq, as well as other countries in the region, because of lack of security. In Iraq alone about half a million Christians have been forced to leave their homes and homeland.

The European Parliament is very concerned about these developments and is a strong defender of human rights, including freedom of religion. We monitor the situation closely and have adopted a number of resolutions to try to draw international attention to the plight of Christian minorities.

Iraq must ensure equal treatment for all its religious groups – Christians have the same rights as their Sunni and Shia Muslim sisters and brothers.

The Parliament has called on the High Representative, Baroness Ashton, to address the safety of Christians in Iraq as a priority issue.

I will continue to highlight the issue, at every possible opportunity, of the situation of Christians in Iraq and the broader Middle East region – in bilateral contacts as well as in my capacity as Vice President of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Union for the Mediterranean.”

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