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EU Resolution on Afghanistan demonstrates a “guilty lack of attention to Christians”, says Co-Chair of Intergroup on FORB

  • Resolution calls for UN “fact-finding mission” to Afghanistan to document rights violations

  • Fails to mention Christians, despite 10,000 facing grave threat to survival

Brussels (17 September)The European Parliament has adopted a resolution condemning the violence of the Taliban in Afghanistan, and calling for support to be given to the most vulnerable groups.The resolution details the “unfolding humanitarian catastrophe”, highlighting the Taliban’s “persecution” of women and girls and “heavy discrimination” against ethnic and religious minorities, with a particular mention of Shia Hazaras.

Carlo Fidanza MEP, Co-Chair of the European Parliament’s Intergroup on Freedom of Religion and Belief, criticized the Parliament’s failure to acknowledge the particular danger faced by Afghan Christians:

This resolution demonstrates once again the guilty lack of attention by Europe, not only to Afghan Christians – who are completely ignored by the text – but to Christians in general. As I have already said on the rejection of the establishment of a European Day for Religious Freedom, it is worrying that it is now considered normal that a silence falls upon the tragedy faced by persecuted Christians,” said the Co-Chair.

Fidanza also raised concerns that a failure to focus on faith in such situations can “lead politics to be timid towards regimes that violate religious freedom on a daily basis.”

Estimated 10,000 Afghan Christians now fear for their lives

An estimated group of 10,000 Christians are facing danger in Afghanistan because of their faith. The majority are converts from Islam to Christianity. For decades they have largely practiced their faith underground, as conversion is considered a crime punishable by death under Sharia Law. Credible reports claim that the Taliban is conducting targeted killings of Christians and other minorities found using public transportation, as well as executing anyone found with Bible software installed on their cell phones. Christians also fear for the safety of their children, with the Taliban already publicizing plans to “eradicate the ignorance of irreligion” by taking non-Muslim women and girls as sex slaves and forcing boys to serve as soldiers.

“Nobody should be persecuted for their beliefs. Thousands of Christians and members of other religious minorities are in danger of being targeted and killed in Afghanistan. We welcome this resolution from the European Parliament as a positive step towards action, including its focus on meeting the immediate needs of vulnerable groups. We urge the international community to make every attempt to secure the safety of those who face grave danger, simply on account of their faith,” said Adina Portaru, Senior Counsel For ADF International in Brussels.

Calling for action from the UN Human Rights Council

The resolution urges the Taliban to end the execution of civilians, recruitment of child soldiers, and repression of peaceful protest, especially amongst vulnerable communities, including religious minorities. It further calls for the UN Human Rights Council to establish a “fact-finding mission to Afghanistan with a robust mandate” in light of the need “for documentation, transparent and prompt investigations of reports of all violations and abuses of human rights and international humanitarian law, and to hold those responsible to account.”

The European Parliament’s call for the UN Human Rights Council to establish a “fact finding mission” will be welcomed by human rights groups. Civil society actors raised their concerns during the Human Rights Council’s “special session” last month that the resolution adopted in Geneva did not go far enough to address the urgent situation, with some calling the resolution “more of an insult to the Afghan people than a response to the crisis.”

“ADF International remains deeply concerned about the fast-deteriorating security and human rights developments in Afghanistan. The unfolding situation on the ground requires an immediate, robust and coordinated response from the international community, whereby respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms is considered as an absolute prerequisite for a credible peace and reconciliation process. The UN Human Rights Council must address the concerns raised by the European Parliament by establishing a mechanism tasked with monitoring the situation of human rights in Afghanistan, focusing particularly on the human rights of vulnerable persons such as those belonging to religious minorities,” said Giorgio Mazzoli, Legal Officer, United Nations for ADF International.

Position of “Special Envoy on Freedom of Religion or Belief Outside of the EU” left vacant amidst unfolding crisis

Amidst the unfolding religious freedom crisis, it was revealed last week that the position of Special Envoy for the promotion of freedom of religion or belief outside the EU has, again, been left vacant. Christos Stylianides left the role after less than 5 months.

The European Commission had appointed Stylianides this May after the position had been left vacant for almost two years. Human rights experts have raised concern over the poor resourcing and staffing provided to carry out the mandate.

The current plight of Christians, Shia Muslims, and other religious minorities in Afghanistan highlights the need for a Special Envoy to quickly get to work, focusing on the needs of the most persecuted worldwide. A swift reappointment is crucial in showing real commitment to improving the precarious situations religious minorities are facing worldwide,” said Portaru.

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