LONDON – The European Union has reportedly formed an association to protect the rights of Christians in countries where they face persecution.
"We've set up a working group and are defining what bilateral action can be taken between Europe and the individual countries where Christians' rights are in danger," said Italy's Foreign Minister Franco Frattini.
Jeff King, president of International Christian Concern, welcomed the move, commenting, "Christians are facing increasing persecution mainly in Muslim countries. We urge the international community to join Italy's effort in promoting religious freedom and protecting Christians from persecution in Muslim and other Christian persecuting countries."
The EU is studying which international initiatives it can adopt to bring the problem of persecution "more clearly into focus," Frattini said.
In an interview with Italian daily Avvenire, Frattini further indicated that the European Union would draw up a manual for EU countries' embassies in nations where persecution is present.
"By the end of April we'll have a manual for European embassies in the rest of the world, focusing in particular on the treatment of Christian religious minorities," he said.
Such a "common protocol," he noted, was never before been implemented and if brought out will help "closely monitor the treatment of religious minorities, especially Christian minorities, in the most sensitive countries."
He clarified that "monitoring" would only be in regard to religious freedom. The EU intends to use a document published recently by Open Doors that contains detailed analysis of Christian persecution worldwide and identifies a list of countries where the situation regarding religious freedom ranges from "persecution," "serious persecution," "limitations" to "problematic."
Ranked first in the list is North Korea, followed by Iran, Somalia and Saudi Arabia.
Keeping that in mind, Frattini stressed the need for a group of like-minded countries that could voice for the right of Christians to profess their faith anywhere in the world.
"You see, Christians have never had a political group offering them strong support through their governments. We discovered this when we found ourselves alone in contesting the ruling on crucifixes," he said. "We campaigned vigorously and succeeded in attracting the consensus of at least 15-16 countries which, formally or informally, came round to our position."
Earlier this month, a delegation of the European Union visited Kandhamal – the scene of the 2008 anti-Christian riots – in India where they met government and police officials.
The 11-member delegation led by the EU's head of political affairs, Christophe Manet, reviewed the ground situation and met with victims of violence. The EU has strongly condemned the violence and called for protection of minorities.