Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly condemned the criminal acts of DAESH as genocide and calls for action

What will the EU do? Important vote tomorrow in the European Parliament


Last week, in a resolution adopted at the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe the abhorrent acts perpetrated by the Islamic State in Syria were strongly condemned and characterized as genocide and Member States were called to act in order to prevent such acts. 

Tomorrow, the European Parliament will vote a similar resolution and hopefully will do the same. Religious minorities in the Middle East are in serious peril. For example, a hearing that was organised last week in the European Parliament showed that Christians are one of the primary targets of ISIS and that there are serious threats to their freedom and well-being around the world. Therefore, the fight against religious persecution should become one of EUs top priorities.

On Wednesday 27 January 2016, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) adopted a resolution condemning the actions of ISIS in the Middle East as genocide.  The resolution “Foreign Fighters in Syria and Iraq” states that ISIS “has perpetrated acts of genocide and other serious crimes punishable under international law. States should act on the presumption that Daesh commits genocide and should be aware that this entails action under the 1948 United Nations Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of GenocideThe Assembly recalls that under international law States have a positive obligation to prevent genocide, and thus should do their utmost to prevent their own nationals from taking part in such acts”.

Laurence Wilkinson, Legal Counsel for ADFInternational underlined that “The Council of Europe has responded to clear and compelling evidence that Christians and other religious minorities in the Middle East are victims of genocide” and expressed his hope that more institutions will follow this example. Dutch MP Pieter Omtzigt introduced an amendment that clearly stipulates that ISIS has been committing genocide. He added that it is the obligation UN member state to prevent crimes of genocide using all available means

Tomorrow, the European Parliament will also vote on a resolution on the atrocities of Daesh in the Middle East. Members of the European Parliament should follow the example set by PACE Members. The acts perpetrated by Daesh are acts of genocide. The 1948 Genocide Convention of 1948 refers to specific acts committed with the intention to "destroy, in whole or in part a national, ethnic, racial or religious group." Religious minorities are continuously targeted in the Middle East. The numbers speak by themselves. Concerning the presence of Christians in Syria and Iraq, their number has dropped from 1.25 million to 500.000 from 1.4 million to under 275.000 respectively Iraq in just a few years

The persecution of Christians was discussed on a recent meeting organized in the European Parliament. On Wednesday the 20th of January, ECPM MEP Mr Van Dalen invited Open Doors International (ODI) to the European Parliament (EP). ODI is an organisation that was founded in the Netherlands 60 years ago. Today, it is working in more than 60 countries with offices in 25 countries. This organisation defends persecuted Christians worldwide. By using the term “persecution of Christians” we mean any form of hostility experienced as a result of one’s identification with Jesus Christ. Persecution affects all spheres of life starting from family life and spreading to national and church life. It can take two forms: physical and material persecution and daily oppression. 

Although the persecution of Christians in the Middle East is on the rise, there are also many other areas were Christians are persecuted. The top 5 countries in Christian Persecution are: North Korea, Iraq, Eritrea, Afghanistan and Syria. The most difficult place in the world to be a Christian - North Korea -  is a country where notorious death camps operate and where foreign local and foreign missionaries are systematically persecuted. The Christians are the most persecuted religion in the world. 

2015 will be remembered as the year that was the most violent for Christians in Modern History. Over 7000 Christians were killed for faith related reasons. Additionally, around 2400 churches were attacked or damaged.  But why was 2015 such a difficult year? Participants in the Hearing described last year as the “year of overspill”. Several factors, like the increase in Muslim fundamentalism and the increase in terrorist activities that ensued caused unprecedented problems for Christians, especially in the Middle East and Asia. The country in which we witness the strongest radicalization trend is India. In this country, around 63 million Christians suffer from a growing religious nationalism and a rise in Hindu extremism. It has to be noted that the coerced conversions into Hinduism are also on the rise often with the consent of national institutions.

It is therefore high time for the European Institutions to become more active in protecting religious minorities around the world and to recognize the persecution of Christians. The condemnation of the genocide against religious minorities by Daesh in next Thursday’s vote is just the first step. Additionally, more actions should be taken to avoid and prevent such acts of genocide from happening again. Finally, there should be more attention paid to the persecuted Christians in the world. The participants in the 20 January Hearing agreed that the EP should increase pressure in countries with persecuted Christians using (where applicable) its delegations to these countries. It should also make sure that religious freedom is not only discussed within the framework of the Intergroup on Freedom of Religion & Belief and Religious Intolerance. On the contrary, it should be made one of the basic priorities of the Parliament and the European Union. 

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