High-level European officials and experts attending an international conference in Vienna last week stated that European governments and the international community were failing to address religious discrimination and the persecution of Christians in Europe and worldwide.
In his opening keynote speech to the conference, EU Special Envoy for Religious Freedom, Ján Figel’, observed that even though tens of thousands of Christians worldwide are killed every year because of their faith, the media and the international community pay little attention.
Significantly, the conference, entitled “Embattled: Christians under Pressure in Europe and Beyond” was split into two parts, the first part dealing with persecution outside of Europe in countries such as Iraq, Nigeria, North Korea and Syria, and the second focused on growing governmental restrictions within European countries on conscience, freedom of association, freedom of speech and parental rights, as well as hate crimes against Christians.
Speaking on behalf of the Archbishop of Vienna at the start of the conference, Bishop Stephan Turnovszky said that although there is no organised or systematic persecution of Christians in Europe, there were frightening trends involving Christian marginalisation, as well as political and media reprisals against those with religious convictions. He also observed that violence against Christians is rarely reported in the media and cited examples.
Although the conference did not use the term “Christianophobia” in its report on Europe, it is significant that this term was first used in 2004 by Joseph Weiler, a Jewish professor at New York University’s Law school, to describe discrimination against Christians within Europe. Professor Weiler coined the term following the European Union’s refusal to accept Italy’s nomination of Rocco Buttiglione for the post of EU Justice Commissioner because of his Christian beliefs on sexual ethics.
Worryingly, similar instances of anti-Christian discrimination are increasingly the norm, despite being dramatically under-reported.