Vatican City, Dec 15, 2016 / 15:32 pm
While violent persecution against Christians assails swaths of territory the Middle East and Africa, one Vatican official says that Western nations face a different type of oppression, marked by the push to eliminate religion from public life.
“To act and speak out publicly as a committed Christian in one's professional life has never been more threatened,” Msgr. Antoine Camilleri, Under-secretary for relations with the States, said Dec. 14.
He gave the keynote address at the opening of daylong conference hosted by the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) in Vienna titled “Towards a Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration: A Regional Perspective.”
Religious freedom is the “litmus test” of respect for all other fundamental human rights, since it is their “synthesis and keystone,” he said, adding that safeguarding this freedom ensures that other rights will also be guaranteed to all people, regardless of belief, since it involves consciousness and dignity.
Pointing to the “barbaric persecution of Christians” happening in the Middle East, he said “the atrocities committed against Christians in Syria and Iraq are so horrific that words cannot adequately respond, and their plight must not be forgotten.”
He referred to the gruesome bombing of a Coptic Orthodox cathedral in Cairo Sunday that killed at least 25, saying it offers proof of the “shadow of violent extremism and terrorism” in the country. Yet, he also cautioned that such persecution is also taking place “at the very doorstep” of the OSCE headquarters in Vienna.
“We must recognize that discrimination and intolerance, including hate crimes, impact many Christians and Christian communities, despite a frequently encountered notion that in this part of the world such discrimination or intolerance does not occur,” he said.
Simply belonging to the majority religion seems to exclude Christians from being considered victims of intolerance, Camilleri said, but stressed that such a view “is not based on reality.”