The international community must demonstrate the same commitment to wiping out growing "Christianophobia" as to tackling anti-Semitism or Islamophobia, the Vatican's foreign minister said on Friday.
Archbishop Dominique Mamberti was speaking as Hindu mobs continue to go on the rampage against Christians in India's Orissa state in retaliation for the killing of a Hindu leader, despite the Indian government saying that Maoists are most likely responsible for the murder. At least 13 people have been killed in the violence and hundreds of Christian churches and homes have been burned down.
Mamberti said religious freedom is fundamental to upholding human dignity.
"In order to promote this dignity in an integral way, so-called 'Christianophobia' should be combated as decisively as 'Islamophobia' and anti-Semitism," he said.
More than 3,000 people, mainly Christians, have fled from their homes to government-run relief camps or surrounding forests.
Gospel for Asia President K.P. Yohannan said that at least 12 members of Gospel for Asia-related churches had been killed in the violence, although the exact death toll remains unconfirmed.
He called the violence "unprecedented" in his 30 years of ministry in south Asia.
"I have never seen persecution so bad in my life and I have seen a lot of opposition to the Gospel over the years," said Yohannan.
Orissa has a long history of persecution against Christians. The current outbreak of violence follows a wave of attacks on Christians by Hindu radicals in Orissa last Christmas. In 1999, Australian missionary Graham Staines and his two sons were brutally murdered by anti-Christian militants.
Christians in other parts of the world, particularly the Middle East, face intense persecution. Earlier this year, churches were bombed in Mosul while the Chaldean Archbishop of Mosul was abducted and found dead two weeks later. Christians in Iraq believe that the attacks were part of an ongoing campaign by Islamic extremists to drive Christians out of the country. Last month, the Pope appealed to Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri-al-Maliki to do more to protect Iraq's dwindling Christian population.