Zenit (Link) (March 9, 2009)
One does not have to live in Africa or Asia to be the victim of anti-Christian discrimination; according to an intergovernmental security group, there are plenty of victims in Europe and America.
This was the conclusion from a meeting sponsored by the U.N. ad hoc Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, an international group that has 56 member states spread across Europe, the Caucasus, Central Asia and North America.
The meeting last Wednesday brought together experts and representatives of states in the intergovernmental organization, reported a press release from the group at the event's conclusion.
Janez Lenarcic, former Slovenian ambassador to the OSCE and now the director of the office for democratic institutions and human rights, which organized the event, reported, "What came out clearly from this meeting is that intolerance and discrimination against Christians is manifested in various forms across the OSCE area."
He continued, "While denial of rights may be an important issue where Christians form a minority, exclusion and marginalization may also be experienced by Christians where they comprise a majority in society."
Mario Mauro, vice president of the European Parliament and representative of the Chairmanship on Combating Racism, Xenophobia and Discrimination, stated in a press release following the event, "I believe that this meeting has succeeded in raising visibility and highlighting the relevance of the phenomenon of intolerance and discrimination against Christians."
The meeting centered on various aspects of intolerance and discrimination against and among Christians, including "violent attacks against persons, property and places of worship, as well as restrictions to the right to freedom of religion or belief," the press release reported.
It also addressed the "inaccurate portrayals of Christian identity and values in the media and political discourse, leading to misunderstandings and prejudice."
The meeting called for interreligious dialogue, recognizing that the challenges faced by Christians are shared by members of other faiths. It also requested "improved collection of data on hate crimes against Christians, the adoption of freedom of religion laws in line with international commitments and assistance to states and civil society in raising awareness of relevant standards."
One expert participant, Gudrun Kugler, noted, "The reasons given for intolerance and discrimination against Christians in Europe were, amongst others, radical secularization, extreme forms of political correctness as well as aspects of anti-discrimination laws."
Kugler, assistant to the general secretary of the Christian nongovernmental organization network "Europe for Christ!," asserted, "The prejudice against Christians seems to be the last socially acceptable prejudice in Europe."
The network, which sponsors the "Christianophobia" Web site, released a statement approving the "quality and depth" of the OSCE meeting. Kugler added: "On our Web site [...] we publish cases in which prejudices have spilled over into acts of intolerance. That the OSCE looks at the phenomenon is a first step towards tolerance for all people, also practicing Christians."
She concluded: "It is important to encourage the media to spread a message of understanding and respect towards Christians instead of prejudices. Further, Christians must not suffer exclusion from public life and the right of conscientious objection should be ensured for Christians in all countries."