The ECR Group in the European Parliament welcomes the appointment of Christos Stylianides as the EU Envoy for the promotion of Freedom of Religion or Belief (EU FoRB Envoy). The appointment follows a gap of almost two years since the departure of the previous Envoy, Mr Jan Figel. In many countries across the world, religious minorities face discrimination or even persecution. Over the past two years, ECR Members have advocated for the reinstatement of the Envoy position.
ECR MEP Carlo Fidanza, the co-chair of the Intergroup on Freedom of Religion or Belief, said:
“We welcome the nomination of Christos Stylianides as EU special envoy for the promotion of Freedom of Religion or Belief. We waited two years for this appointment to come. Two years in which the EU has abdicated its role as guarantor of values such as respect, tolerance and most of all, freedom. In many parts of the world, freedom of religion and belief cannot be taken for granted. This year, more than 340 million Christians faced persecution across the world because of their faith. It is the largest genocide taking place across the globe, and Europe has a duty to not only put the spotlight on this tragedy but to take steps to prevent this and other disgraces to come.”
ECR MEP Bert-Jan Ruissen, the vice-chair of the Intergroup on Freedom of Religion or Belief, said:
“We are glad to hear about the appointment of a new Special Envoy for Freedom of Religion or Belief. I hope Mr Stylianides will take up his duties soon and will receive appropriate financial and human resources to carry out his work in addressing the worsening situation of religious freedom worldwide.”
ECR MEP Charlie Weimers, chair of the ECR Policy Group on Religious Freedom, added:
“The appointment of Mr. Stylianides regretfully comes two years after the post became vacant, and given the continued worsening situation of freedom of religion or belief worldwide, the news comes not a moment too soon. “We sincerely hope that the EU will take the need to protect and promote the freedom of religion or belief seriously, especially in the face of increased persecution of religious minorities worldwide, notably of Christians who constitute the majority of people facing persecution for their faith.”
Religious freedom is violated by governments and non-state actors in almost one-third of the world’s countries, where two-thirds of the world’s population lives. COVID-19 exacerbates the vulnerability of religious minorities. Christians are the most persecuted religious group in the world, followed by Muslims and other religious minorities.
The ECR Group calls for the Special Envoy to be designated adequate financial and human resources. The Group furthermore calls for his mandate to include clear objectives that ensure his capability to fight the persecution of minorities on the grounds of belief or religion. If the EU wishes to be a leader in protecting and promoting freedom of religion or belief, this is an essential first step.
The ECR Group will also address the matter in the Parliament’s Subcommittee on Human Rights, where it has the lead in drafting an EP report on the persecution of minorities on the grounds of belief or religion.