“Millions of Christians face persecution worldwide and 948 Christians were killed last year, according to Open Doors. These are shocking, frightening statistics. Any form of religious persecution is appalling and I absolutely condemn it”, Mairead McGuinness MEP said following a meeting with Michel Varton, Director of Open Doors, a leading NGO working to prevent the persecution of Christians, in Strasbourg today (Thursday).
As First Vice-President of the European Parliament responsible for overseeing the institution’s Religious Dialogue with Churches, MEP McGuinness commended the work of Open Doors who advocate for the freedom of religion and raise awareness of the persecution of Christians, publishing an in-depth annual report on the subject.
“The World Watch List 2017, produced by Open Doors, presents deeply concerning statistics. In our meeting today, we spoke of the two types of persecution inflicted on those of Christian faith, that of hard violence which is very apparent in many areas of the world and also in the form of pressure whereby the practice of Christianity is quashed and Christians or converts are pressured to give up their faith.
“Conflict in the Middle East has had severe ramifications, and also for the Christians which Open Doors says have been the most devastated by the chaos there. According to their research, the number of Christians in the Middle East is falling because of violence and being forced to flee their homes. Furthermore, Southeast Asia has now emerged as a hotbed of religious persecution,” McGuinness said.
The World Watch List for 2017 states that there has been a sustained rise in persecution despite fewer violent incidents. The ten countries listed as having the highest occurrence of persecution of Christians are North Korea, Somalia, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Sudan, Syria, Iraq, Iran, Yemen and Eritrea. 948 Christians were killed in 2016 in acts of violence related to religious persecution and a further 215 million worldwide are experiencing a high level of persecution across 50 countries according to the research.
The Midlands North West MEP added that she is committed to raising the issue of religious persecution at the highest level in her role as First Vice-President of the European Parliament. “The EU stands for tolerance, religious freedom, human dignity, equality and human rights. Through diplomatic channels we can pressure the global community to end the appalling persecution of religious communities.”