". . . and having done all . . . stand firm." Eph. 6:13


Europeans Highlight Rising Persecution of Christians around the Globe

September 26, 2023

A European politician is calling on his colleagues not to turn a blind eye to rising persecution of Christians. Dutch Member of the European Parliament (MEP) Bert-Jan Ruissen staged a display in the European Parliament last week highlighting the rising persecution of Christians worldwide and criticizing the European Union (EU) for remaining “silent.”

The display was sponsored by Open Doors and the Dutch Foundation of the Underground Church, organizations committed to protecting persecuted Christians. Ruissen declared that religious liberty is “a universal human right” and that the EU has a responsibility to “keep countries worldwide to the promises that all believers are free to confess their religion.” He explained, “Ten years ago, the European Union adopted a set of guidelines for the protection of freedom of religion. Yet, in practice, these guidelines are not carried out. The EU has a moral duty to protect this freedom of religion credibly.”

Prior to staging the religious liberty display, Ruissen spoke to his fellow MEPs and the European Commission on rising religious persecution. Although he clarified that the EU’s standards on religious freedom were good, he added, “But I have serious doubts about the execution of them.” He noted that the European Commission has yet to release its report on how those religious liberty standards are enforced and pointed out that the post of Commissioner of Religious Freedom had remained vacant for three years, which does not suggest a sense of urgency to tackle the issue on the EU’s part. Ruissen’s party, the Dutch Reformed Political Party, called on the European Commission to release its report on enforcing religious liberty standards, expand the office of Commissioner of Religious Freedom, and declare an EU-wide day dedicated to the fight for religious liberty.

In comments to The Washington Stand, Romanian MEP Cristian Terhes of the Christian Democratic National Peasants’ Party said, “These pseudo-leaders of the European Union are so ashamed of this great Western civilization that they are completely silent when innocent Christian believers suffer horrible persecution around the globe. EU institutions could do much more to speak up and act to defend the persecuted Christians, not only because this is the right thing to do, but because the respect for human rights and religious freedom is one of the foundations of the Western civilization that the EU leaders claim to represent.”

Terhes added, “One of the foundations of the European and Western civilization is the Christian faith,” and warned that “undermining these values will lead to the collapse of this civilization, with a direct negative impact on the rights of every human being.”

Arielle Del Turco, director of Family Research Council’s Center for Religious Liberty, agreed. “Religious freedom is a critical building block for other fundamental human rights, most prominently freedom of expression and freedom of assembly,” she told TWS. “Not to mention that religious freedom has been shown to correlate with both economic development and national security. Free countries that value human rights should be promoting religious freedom, not only for the many practical benefits associated with it, but also because it is simply the right thing to do.”

This comes as the Biden administration has diluted the United States’ own commitment to religious liberty and protecting Christians across the globe. Earlier this year, religious freedom experts and advocates told the U.S. House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Global Health that global persecution of Christins is increasing — especially in areas like Africa, the Middle East, and Asia — and the Biden State Department is remaining inactive. Committee chairman Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.) said at the time, “I am convinced that there is more the United States can do to protect and promote the freedom of religion worldwide. Time and time again, violators of religious freedom are given a pass in the department’s Country of Particular Concern designations.”

Del Turco concurred. “In the United States, we often don’t recognize how many desperate persecuted believers are hoping American leaders will speak up on their behalf. Even with all of our problems, many around the world see us as the standard-bearer for freedom. Under President Biden, we are shunning this responsibility and it’s shameful.”

In Nicaragua, for example, president Daniel Ortega has arrested and expelled Catholic priests, forced religious orders out of the country, shut down Catholic universities and seminaries, frozen the bank accounts of Catholic dioceses, shuttered Catholic radio stations, and raided the headquarters of the Matagalpa diocese and arrested bishop Rolando Álvarez. Ortega later deported around 200 political and religious prisoners, stripping them of their Nicaraguan citizenship. Álvarez refused to be deported, choosing instead to remain with his persecuted flock. Ortega ended the bishop’s trial before defense could present arguments, stripped him of his citizenship, and sentenced him to almost 30 years in prison on charges of “treason.”

National Security Council Coordinator for Strategic Communications and former U.S. State Department spokesman John Kirby responded by calling Ortega’s anti-Catholic crackdown “unacceptable.” The Biden State Department has employed similar tactics when addressing the Chinese Communist Party’s decades of systematically persecuting and executing Christians and Uyghur Muslims, and increasing persecution of Christians in Nigeria and India.

S.A. McCarthy serves as a news writer at The Washington Stand.