Religious freedom advocates are praising the Vatican's proposal to establish an international day against the worldwide persecution of Christians.
People are “used to defending animal rights, the rights of people with disabilities, the equality of women, the need to respect ethnic and cultural diversity—and rightly so,” said Neville Kyrke-Smith of Aid to the Church in Need.
However, there is often a “deafening silence” when it comes to protecting the rights of Christians, he told CNA on Dec. 7.
“Particularly in the light of the worrying fall-out from the Arab Spring,” Kyrke-Smith added, the Vatican's proposal “is in itself an important sign that our brothers and sisters in Christ are not forgotten.”
Archbishop Dominique Mamberti, the Vatican’s Secretary of Relations with States, announced the need for an international day on Dec. 6 at the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe's Ministerial Council gathered in the Lithuanian capital of Vilnius.
“There may be more than two hundred million Christians, of different confessions, who are in difficulty because of legal and cultural structures that lead to their discrimination,” Archbishop Mamberti said.
He noted that a celebration of a day against the discrimination of Christians “might prove to be an important sign that governments are willing to deal with this serious issue.”
The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe explored the issue of anti-Christian persecution at a special conference held in Rome in September of this year.
Archbishop Mamberti said that the meeting had “revealed the possibility of constructive dialogue toward mutual understanding and respect among Christians, members of other religions, and nonbelievers.”
The security organization was created in the 1970’s and now comprises of 56 member states drawn from three continents—North America, Europe and Asia.
Over the years, the organization has “carved out for itself” an “impressive commitments in favor of the defense of fundamental freedoms and human rights,” the archbishop said. This, he added, has included the right to freedom of religion which “continues to be widely violated today.”
Aid to the Church in Need estimates that 75 percent of all religious persecution worldwide is anti-Christian.
Last year in his message for the World Day of Peace, Pope Benedict XVI lamented that “many Christians experience daily affronts and often live in fear because of their pursuit of truth, their faith in Jesus Christ and their heartfelt plea for respect for religious freedom.”
He described the situation as “unacceptable, since it represents an insult to God and to human dignity.” The Pope also called it a “threat to security and peace” and an obstacle to “authentic and integral human development.”