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MOTION FOR A RESOLUTION on recent cases of violence and persecution against Christians notably in Maaloula (Syria), Peshawar (Pakistan) and the case of Pastor Saeed Abedini (Iran)

8.10.2013 - (2013/2872(RSP))

with request for inclusion in the agenda for a debate on cases of breaches of human rights, democracy and the rule of law
pursuant to Rule 122 of the Rules of Procedure

Marie-Christine Vergiat, Willy Meyer on behalf of the GUE/NGL Group

Procedura : 2013/2872(RSP)
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European Parliament resolution on recent cases of violence and persecution against Christians notably in Maaloula (Syria), Peshawar (Pakistan) and the case of Pastor Saeed Abedini (Iran)


The European Parliament,

–   Having regard the European Parliament recommendation to the Council of 13 June 2013 on the draft EU Guidelines on the Promotion and Protection of Freedom of Religion or Belief

–   having regard to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the UN Declaration on the Elimination of All Forms of Intolerance and of Discrimination Based on Religion or Belief,

–   having regard to article 18 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and General Comment 22 by the United Nations Human Rights Committee,

–   having regard to article 10 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union,

–   having regard to its resolution of 13 December 2012 on the review of the EU's human rights strategy,

–   having regard to its resolutions on the annual reports on Human Rights and Democracy in the World and the European Union's policy on the matter

–   having regard European Parliament recommendation to the Council of 13 June 2013 on the draft EU Guidelines on the Promotion and Protection of Freedom of Religion or Belief


A. whereas, according to Article 18 of the Treaty on the European Union, democracy, the rule of law, the universality and indivisibility of human rights and fundamental freedoms, respect for human dignity, the principles of equality and solidarity, and respect for the principles of the United Nations Charter and international law are the guiding principles for all EU external actions;


B. whereas the right to freedom of thought, belief and religion covered all beliefs including religious, non-religious, agnostic and atheistic beliefs, the right not to believe and the right to change one's religion or belief, is a universal human right and a fundamental freedom of each human being, interrelated with other human rights and fundamental freedoms as enshrined in Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights;


C. Whereas violence against religious communities, with political, socio-economic or ideological roots, persists in many parts of the world including European Union and its neighbourhood; whereas persons belonging to particular religious communities, including religious minorities and non-believers, continue to be denied their human rights and are regularly discriminated against, arrested, convicted and in many countries sometimes even executed because of their religion or belief; whereas clear condemnation by the European Union of all forms of violence and discrimination should be a basic element of EU policy notably in the area of freedom of belief or religion, whereas particular attention should be given to the position of those who changed their religion or belief, as in practice they are often the subject of social pressures, intimidation or outright violence.


D. Whereas in many countries around the world, religious issues are used for political purposes and cause many deadly conflicts whose first victims often are women and children, and that therefore the EU should recommend to partner countries to include secularism - defined as the strict separation between the religious sphere and public sphere - in fundamental legal texts of countries with which it intends to establish regular relations


E. whereas several UNCHR resolutions call ‘all States, within their national legal framework, in conformity with international human rights instruments, to take all appropriate measures to combat hatred, discrimination, intolerance and acts of violence, intimidation and coercion motivated by religious intolerance, including attacks on religious places, and to encourage understanding, tolerance and respect in matters relating to freedom of belief or religion’,


F. Whereas a car bomb attack on the All Saints Church in Peshawar has killed

at least 82 people and injured more than 120;


G. Whereas decades of violence and the war in Afghanistan resulted in a destabilization of the whole region and in a preoccupying strengthening of extremist religious groups; whereas Pakistani Taliban and other armed groups have killed civilians in targeted and indiscriminate attacks across the country for different reasons; whereas continued US drone attacks aggravate the situation


H. Whereas the political, social and human rights situation in Pakistan in general is a matter of deep preoccupation; whereas the international community, including the EU for many years closed its eyes vis-à-vis the developments in Pakistan;



I. Whereas religious minorities are increasingly the subject of discrimination and violence, whereas the Christian minority - and in particular Coptic Christians which make up about 9 percent of the population - but also the Shia and Baha'i minorities are particularly affected;


J. whereas since the military coup d'état in Egypt several attacks against Copts have taken place, as seen with the take-over of a village in Minya, whereas within the 48 hours after the brutal dispersal of the Muslim Brotherhood's sit-sin in Cairo by the Egyptian army whereby more than 1,000 protesters were killed, a wave of violence has taken place with 61 churches, 58 houses and 85 stores belonging to Christians attacked and destroyed,


K. whereas at least seven Copts have been killed in sectarian violence in recent months, including the execution of a Coptic priest in the Sinai, whereas an Egyptian Coptic Christian bishop escaped an assassination attempt on 30 September in Minya province,



L. Whereas Christians have lived in Syria for 2000 years in harmony with other religious and ethnic groups and minorities; whereas the Christian Syrians belong to some 11 denominations including Greek Orthodox, Catholics, Armenians, Assyrians, ... Whereas their population has been on the decline mostly due to emigration and today they are estimated to make up a mere 6% or around 1.5 million people out of the 22 million population of Syria; whereas in some cases they live in ancient towns and villages which host ancient churches and monasteries, as are Maaloula and Sednaya, and speak the ancient language Aramaic; whereas some reports are talking about forced conversions in those villages;


M.  whereas amidst the continuing civil war in Syria they have been targeted by Islamist groups, and their villages sieged, creating victims and leading to population fleeing their traditional villages and towns;


N.  whereas the ancient Christian villages that form part of the world cultural heritage are endangered due to the military attacks of them.;



1. Expresses its condolences to the families of the victims and of those wounded in the recent attacks against religious denominations; calls the concerned governments to investigate the attacks to assure that they don’t remain unpunished;


2. Strongly condemns all kinds of discrimination and intolerance based on religion and belief and acts of violence against all religious communities; stresses once again that the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion is a fundamental human right;


3. Reiterates its strong attachment to secularism, defined as the strict separation between the religious and the political authorities, implies the rejection of any religious interference in the functioning of government and of any public interference in religious affairs unless in order to maintain the rules of safety and public order (including the respect to the freedom of others), as well as guarantees to all, believers, agnostics or atheists, equal liberty of conscience;


4. Stresses that the right to freedom of thought, conscience, belief and religion is a fundamental human right guaranteed by international legal instruments; reiterates at the same time its commitment with the fundamental concept of interdependence of all human rights;


5.  Denounces the instrumentalisation of religion in various political conflicts; supports all initiatives aimed at promoting dialogue and mutual respect between religious communities; calls on all governments and religious authorities to promote tolerance, respect for freedom of religion and to take initiatives against hatred; asks the governments to guarantee freedom of religion and belief; reiterates its commitment to the value of secularism;


6. calls on the Government of Pakistan, Egypt and Syria as well all the states where this type of violence take place, to take stronger action to ensure the protection of all

citizens – regardless of their religion or belief - and to bring to justice all groups and individuals responsible for inciting and carrying out acts of terror in accordance with UNHCR resolutions and international Conventions; reiterates that changing or shedding ones religion or belief should always be a free choice, without any force or threat


7. Condemns the violation of the territorial integrity of Pakistan by the U.S.; urgently calls for an immediate end of all drone attacks and other forms of extrajudicial killings on the territory of Pakistan and Afghanistan; calls on all EU institutions to raise this issue in their contacts with the U.S.;


8. Instructs its President to forward this resolution to the Council, the Commission, the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and the governments and the Parliaments of the Member States.