Leaders of the European Parliament (EP) underscored on Wednesday that the persecution of Christians in many parts of the world is getting less attention despite mounting blatant attacks against them mostly by Islamic extremists.
During a high-level meeting on religious persecution in Brussels, the top European leaders called for a stop to the suffering experienced by Christians and urged Europe and the West to do something about this and break their silence.
"The persecution of Christians is 'undervalued' and does not receive enough attention, which has also meant that it 'hasn't been properly addressed,'' said EP President Martin Schulz, Breitbart reported.
"Europe cannot afford to continue ignoring the fate of Christians, who are ' clearly the most persecuted group' in the world,'' he added.
EP Vice President Antonio Tajani echoed Schulz's sentiments, warning that Europe sometimes "falls into the temptation of thinking we can ignore this task" of protecting Christians throughout the world who suffer persecution.
"No religious community is as subject to hatred, violence and systematic aggression as the Christians," he said. "The West must break the silence on the persecution of Christians in the world and Europe must promote a model of society in opposition to religious radicalism and brutal and criminal projects, such as creating an Islamic caliphate in Iraq and Syria and then extending its tentacles into to Libya."
The speakers mentioned human rights organisation Open Doors, which reported that 150 million Christians around the world are victims of rape, torture and arbitrary imprisonment, with those hardest hit living in Iraq, Somalia, Syria, Pakistan, North Korea and Nigeria.
Of the countries cited, 2015 Open Doors' World Watch List indicated that North Korea is the worst persecutor of Christians in the world. There Christians are often sent to prison camps for possessing Bibles and are sometimes even executed for their faith, the Washington Examiner reported.
The State Department estimates that 80,000 to 120,000 North Koreans are imprisoned in labour camps, many because of their religious beliefs. In November 2013, 80 North Korean Christians were reportedly executed for possessing Bibles and South Korean religious films.
Open Doors also found that "Islamic extremism is by far the most significant persecution engine" of Christians in the world today with "40 of the 50 countries on the World Watch List affected by this kind of persecution."
The Middle East is long well known as the hotbed for Islamic extremism. American Christian Pastor Saeed Abedini, for example, has been languishing in a jail cell in Iran for the last two and a half years because of his faith.
Because of the Islamic persecution in the Middle East, Tajani said more than 70 percent of Christians have fled Iraq since 2003, with another 700,000 Christians forced to leave their home in Syria since the outbreak of civil war.
The EP vice president suggested that radicalised religion is the root of problem but could also serve as solution.
"In the name of religion, we have an obligation to condemn all those who show contempt for life and kill in the name of God," he said. "Whoever shoots in the name of God, shoot against God."
Bishop Jean Kockerols of Brussels, another speaker at the meet, also proposed to debunk the belief that Christians have intruded Muslim-dominated countries, saying Christian presence in the Middle East and the Indian sub-continent dates back to centuries before the spread of the Quran.