European Parliament condemns violence against Christians in Syria, Pakistan and Iran

(AP)
Portraits of two men are on display as people pray for three Christian men killed by gunmen in the predominately Christian village of Maaloula during a service at the al-Zaytoun Roman Catholic Church, Damascus, Syria, September 14, 2013. Government troops are battling for the ancient Christian village of Maaloula northeast of the capital of Damascus that was a major tourist attraction before the civil war

The European Parliament passed a resolution on Thursday condemning violence and persecution against Christians in Syria, Pakistan and Iran.

MEPs voiced particular concern over the attacks on Christians in Maaloula, Syria, and the suicide attack on All Saints Church, Peshawar, Pakistan, which killed at least 80 people. 

Maaloula came under heavy attack last month from rebel groups reportedly linked to Al-Qaeda.  Monasteries were targeted and the 5,000 Christians in the town fled.  At least 10 Christians were killed in the series of attacks, with some eyewitnesses claiming that they were killed when they refused to convert to Islam.

The MEPs called for "immediate support and humanitarian assistance" to a group of around 40 nuns and orphans still trapped in the Convent of St Tekla.

They also spoke of their "deep concern" about the general situation of religious minorities in Pakistan and the Christian churches in particular.

They urged the Pakistani authorities to overhaul the blasphemy laws and their current application "thoroughly", noting that the laws were open to misuse against people of faith.

Concerning Iran, they said the fate of imprisoned Pastor Saeed Abedini was also a matter of "deep concern".

Pastor Abedini, an Iranian with US citizenship, was sentenced to eight years in prison in January this year on charges related to undermining national security. In August, a court rejected his appeal and refused to reduce his prison sentence.

They called upon the Iranian government to exonerate and release the pastor "immediately".

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