How Europe's refugee camps are seeing migrants persecuted for their faith

Refugees fleeing the Middle East.Church Response for Refugees

Europe's refugees face harassment and persecution even in the camps that are meant to protect them, a conference at Brussels' European Parliament heard last week.

The European Evangelical Alliance (EEA) organised the hearing titled 'Double Penalty: Refugees and freedom of religion or belief' on May 31, according to Evangelical Focus.

'This was the occasion to raise awareness on the double penalty refugees from religious minorities experience when arriving in Europe: harassment and persecution in camps after fleeing violence in their home country', the organisers said.

The hearing was attended by 50 delegates and was co-hosted by MEPs Branislav Škripek and Lars Adaktusson.

Several research reports were presented, including papers by religious freedom charities Open Doors and Christian Solidarity Worldwide. The organisers summarised the findings, saying that 'religion or belief-based intolerance and discrimination of refugees is a pan-European problem'.

Noting that religious intolerance was a factor is the refugee in crisis, the hearing also noted that religion can play an essential role in alleviating the crisis. 'Church communities have shown that they can be resources of moral support for asylum seekers', the conference heard.

Various practical suggestions were made about how to combat 'pan-European' discrimination. These included amending the 'vulnerability criteria' of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) so it better accommodates those targeted because of their religion. Research on the reality of persecution, alongside investing in interfaith dialogue, empowering minorities and organisational cooperation were recommended.

The hearing also suggested documenting and combatting the 'rise of violence during Ramadan, and more generally prevent the implementation of shari'a law within refugee camps'.

This month sees World Refugee Sunday, taking place on June 18 and 25, as an occasion to raise awareness of refugees and displaced people across the world. The EEA has encouraged churches to hold Refugee Sunday services to motivate congregations to action and prayer.