Skip to content

European Parliament passes “hostile” report on persecuted religious minorities

European Parliament passes “hostile” report on persecuted religious minorities

  • Human rights groups denounce the report as “openly hostile towards religion”

  • Report criticizes religious communities for long-standing doctrinal beliefs

Brussels (4 May 2022) – Yesterday, the European Parliament adopted a report on “The persecution of minorities on the grounds of belief or religion”. Human rights experts have denounced the report as “openly hostile towards religion”. While the initial draft of the report referred to religion as a “human right” and “often a last bastion of liberty” in society, the adopted report describes religion as a threat to a free society by criticizing it as “an important driver of conflict worldwide.” 

“Nobody should be persecuted because of their faith. It is unacceptable that this report, which is meant to stand in solidarity with those suffering from persecution because of their faith, is openly hostile towards religion. By adopting the wording of this report, the European Parliament has undermined its credibility of wanting to address the challenges religious minorities face worldwide,” said Jean-Paul Van De Walle, Legal Counsel based in Brussels with the human rights organization ADF International. 

“Hijacked” report  

The original draft contained several positive aspects regarding the protection of religious minorities against persecution. Various specific references were also made to Christians, and the extent of persecution they experience.   

The Committee on Foreign Affairs (AFET) of the European Parliament, however, amended the initial report in such a way that the scope and tone of the report have completely shifted. Defenders of religious freedom have even described the report as openly hostile to religion in some paragraphs. The persecution of Christians in the Middle East and Africa was omitted and all but one reference to Christians was deleted. The report does include multiple references emphasizing protections for atheist, secular or humanist belief minorities. 

Experts also criticized that the victims who were supposed to be protected by this report ended up being painted as aggressors. They also note that the adopted report goes so far as to condemn religions for their stance on marriage and the protection of life from conception until natural death, which goes far beyond the scope of the report. 

“While I welcome the EP’s report on the persecution of religious freedom, I cannot help but express my dismay at the way this report has been hijacked to stigmatise religion itself,” said Miriam Lexmann, Member of the European Parliament from Slovakia.  

Undermining the position of the Special Envoy on freedom of religion or belief 

The Special Envoy for the promotion of freedom of religion or belief outside the EU was introduced in 2016 to protect freedom of religion or belief on behalf of the EU worldwide. Part of the Special Envoy’s mandate includes visits to countries with some of the most violent religious persecution in the world to help address the situation and develop response plans. The Special Envoy played a decisive role in helping Asia Bibi safely leave Pakistan after she was acquitted of blasphemy charges. The position has been vacant for nearly two years.  

While it was expected that the report would recognize the importance of the Special Envoy, it instead undermines the role by calling for an investigation into the added value of the position. At the same time, however, the report calls for the Special Envoy to also focus on “the rights to non-belief, apostasy and the espousal of atheistic views”. 

“We regret that the hijacked report fails to call on the European Commission to take all necessary steps to appoint a new Special Envoy. The Special Envoy has played a crucial role in bringing the horrors of religious persecution to light at the European level. The role has created awareness around some of the worst and most persistent violations of fundamental rights around the world and helped focus EU efforts to counter them. The EU should not only continue but intensify efforts to protect freedom of religion or belief around the world. The reappointment of a Special Envoy for the promotion of freedom of religion or belief outside the EU is now more necessary than ever,” continued Portaru.  

Images for free use in print or online in relation to this story only.