EU Parliament Committed to Protecting Middle Eastern Christians
STRASBOURG, France -- During its last plenary session, the European Parliament officially welcomed a high ranked delegation of Christian leaders from Iraq and Lebanon composed of their Excellencies Archbishop Matti Matoka (Baghdad-Iraq), Basile Georges Casmoussa (Mosul-Iraq), Mgr Shlemoun Warduni (Babylon-Iraq), by Pr. Melhem Riachy (Kaslik University, Lebanon) and M. Maroun Karam (President fo the Maronite League in Belgium). "It is clear that there are some fundamentalist elements seeking to create sectarian division within the Iraqi society where Christianity has been an integral part of the fabric of Middle-Eastern society for two millennia. We monitor the situation closely, I will continue to highlight the issue, at every possible opportunity, of the situation of Christians in Iraq and the broader Middle East region," said Jerzy Buzek, President of the European Parliament. This was echoed by On. Mario Mauro, "As the European Parliament's Rapporteur on the upcoming first EU-Iraq cooperation agreement (a possible hundred-millions euros agreement), I will insist on the inclusion in this text of the principles of fundamental rights and democracy. This agreement cannot be reduced solely to economic issues, but should be an instrument for the EU to contribute to bringing peace back to the country." Moreover, the head of the EU -- Iraq delegation, Struan Stevenson stressed, during a 75 minute meeting with the delegation, the need to carefully monitor the use of the hundreds of programmes aimed at Iraq reconstruction and peace building, and fostering a sustainable development and economic integration according to these principles. Following the resolution on Iraq after attacks against Christian communities within the country, French MEP Constance le Grip began various initiatives which were unanimously adopted by the plenary on the 25 November 2010. "We desire to be kept informed on a regular basis of any kind of pressure, threat or attack against Christians in the middle east. We are determined to maintain relations with the Christians of the Middle East and to not leave them alone. We are determined to use all means at our disposal so as to regain democracy, human rights and freedom of religion, for everyone including Christians in the Middle East." This statement from Vice-President On. Gianni Pittella (Socialist) and Mario Mauro (Christian Democrat) was supported by more than 131 Members of the European parliament, from all political groups, denominations and EU countries. They signed a solidarity message which has been hand delivered, on the eve of Christmas break, to their Excellencies. In preparation of the upcoming Iraqi visit, a European Parliament preparatory conference on the support of Christians in the Middle East, with all interested parties, including the Council of Europe, will be organised early 2011 in Lebanon.