EUOBSERVER / BRUSSELS – A row over specific references to Christianity
has prevented EU foreign ministers from agreeing a joint declaration
condemning religious persecution, despite a recent spate of attacks on
minorities in Iraq and Egypt.
Instead, a draft text which called on EU foreign policy chief Catherine
Ashton to come up with “concrete proposals” to boost freedom of
religion was sent back to the drawing board on Monday evening (31
Italian foreign minister Franco Frattini led opposition to the text
which “firmly” condemned the “acts of terrorism targeting places of
worship”, claiming the document showed an “excess of secularism”.
“The final text didn’t include any mention of Christians, as if we were
talking of something else, so I asked the text to be withdrawn,” he
told reporters in Brussels.
France reportedly backed Italy on the need to include references to
specific minorities, including Christians and Shi’ite Muslims.
A number of Nordic countries and the UK were uncomfortable with
references to specific religions however, fearing a “clash of
civilisations,” one diplomat told AFP.
Ms Ashton said the 27 ministers had agreed to “go back and reflect” on
how the bloc could “make sure we recognise individual communities of
whatever religion who find themselves being harassed”.
France, Italy, Hungary and Poland were among EU states that had called
for Monday’s discussion on the persecution of Christians after a number
of recent attacks appeared to target the religious group.
The bombing of a church in Baghdad in October killed 46 people and an
apparent suicide attack against a Coptic Christian church in
Alexandria, Egypt in December that left 21 dead.
Six people were killed in attacks on two Christian churches in
northeastern Nigeria over the Christmas festival, while six were
wounded when a bomb exploded in a Roman Catholic Church on the island
of Jolo in the Philippines.
The Vatican has said the attacks and restrictions on Christians in
countries such as Saudi Arabia are driving members of the faith out of
the Middle East.