WORLD: ‘Break the silence on persecuted Christians’

A conference and an exhibition held by MEP Bert-Jan Ruissen in the European Parliament denounces the silence and the impunity surrounding the suffering of Christians around the world

Conference at the European Parliament about the persecution of Christians in Sub-Saharan Africa (Credit: MEP Bert-Jan Ruissen)

Exhibition at the European Parliament about the persecution of Christians in Sub-Saharan Africa (Credit: MEP Bert-Jan Ruissen)

HRWF (21.09.2023) – “The EU must take stronger action against the blatant violations of freedom of religion, which mostly affect Christians worldwide. This silence costs thousands of lives every year, especially in Africa. This deadly silence must be broken,” MEP Bert-Jan Ruissen advocated on Monday 19 September at a conference and opening of an exhibition in the European Parliament.


The event attended by over a hundred people was followed by the visit of an exhibition in the heart of the European Parliament, organised together with Open Doors and SDOK (Foundation of the Underground Church). It showed shocking photos of victims of Christian persecution: among others, a photo of a Chinese believer who was hung by the police with his legs from a horizontal pole, now adorns the heart of the European Parliament.

Bert-Jan Ruissen: “Freedom of religion is a universal human right. The EU claims to be a community of values but is now too often silent on serious violations. The thousands of victims and families must be able to rely on EU action. As an economic power bloc, we must hold all countries accountable that all believers are free to practice their religion.”


Ruissen pointed out that 10 years ago now, the EU adopted directives to protect freedom of religion. “These directives are too much on paper and too little in practice. The EU has a moral duty to credibly protect this freedom.”


Anastasia Hartman, advocacy officer at Open Doors in Brussels: “As we want to strengthen sub-Saharan Christians, we also want them to become part of a solution to the complex regional crisis. Enforcing freedom of belief should be high on the agenda, because when both Christians and non-Christians see their fundamental freedoms protected, they can become a blessing for the whole community.”


Bonus for killing a pastor

Nigerian student Ishaku Dawa recounted the horrors of the Islamist terrorist organisation Boko Haram: “In my region, 30 pastors have already been killed. Pastors are outlaws: the death of a pastor brings a bounty of the equivalent of 2,500 euros. One victim I knew personally “, the VU Amsterdam student said. “Think of the kidnapped schoolgirls in 2014: they were targeted because they came from a Christian school.”


Also speaking at the conference was Illia Djadi, Open Doors’ Senior Analyst on freedom of faith in Sub-Saharan Africa. He called for more international engagement.


Jelle Creemers, director of the Institute for the Study of Freedom of Religion or Belief at the Evangelical Theological Faculty (ETF) Leuven, said, “An EU policy that promotes freedom of religion is not only about individual freedoms but also helps fight injustice, actively supports threatened communities and is a foundation on which people can flourish. I hope this exhibition helps to remind us of the need and importance of this commitment.”


Further reading about FORB in the World on HRWF website