Budapest report on Christian Persecution: General theoretical reflections on the state of the security of Christians
Paper by Ágnes Környei entitled: Possible tools of action against Christian persecution.
The paper commences with the new atmosphere in the field of religious freedom, especially in Christian persecution. Religion has a role in politics, and freedom of religion is nowadays a part of foreign policy. Even though religious freedom is a fundamental right, there are restrictions or even persecutions in many places. Usually, the state of Christians represents the state of other religious minorities. There are different levels of Christian persecution, from intolerance, discrimination, persecution or genocide. In some places, Christians are second rate citizens either culturally or legally. Worse still is when atrocities mean outright physical assaults, enslavement, sexual offences, kidnapping children, imprisonment, torture and execution. It is common that the offenders damage or destroy churches or wipe out whole Christian villages. These acts, on their own, are a breach of human rights, but in these cases, the victims are also suffering because of their faith.
Even though there are many reports and investigations, the hardship of Christians is rarely noted. To safeguard international religious freedom, several forums and tools exist.
In the following section, the author examines the legal and diplomatic answers and international initiatives opposing Christian persecution. After the Second World War, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights assembled all these sources. All countries declared the inviolable nature of these human rights. Nowadays, however, groups are trying to formulate their own demands as human rights. National parliaments have the tools to condemn acts as well. However, it was usually thought that this right belonged to the UN authority. In foreign policy, denouncements, statements and sanctions are effective tools, but a state rarely uses these tools on offenders against religious freedom. To guarantee international religious freedom, states could provide a proper forum and organise high profile meetings. It is an outstanding achievement that many countries appointed special diplomats, and the United States of America’s efforts in this regard are noteworthy. These diplomats usually work in foreign affairs ministries; however, their titles could differ in different countries. Other than the state officials, the author mentions boards like the USCIRF in the USA.
Commitment can be measured via financial sources as well; in the USA and the UK, there are funds available for such projects. Many governments issue reports about human rights and religious freedom every year, which are afterwards used in foreign policy.
Lastly, the author mentions religious freedom sensibility as an indicator and sets the Elie Wiesel Genocide and Atrocities Prevention Act of 2018 as an example.
Since 2015, there is a workgroup called Freedom of Religion or Belief and Religious Tolerance, which supported the European Parliament to force the UN Security Council to turn to the International Criminal Court in the case of the ISIS’ persecution of Christians, Yazidis and other religious minorities. Even though there are many treaties and charters, it was in 2016 when the Special Envoy on Freedom of Religion or Belief outside the EU was appointed.
In the UN, there were many occasions when the UN declared religious freedom, but in 2011 a decree was accepted against religious intolerance. There is also a UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief. Also notable is the Senior Adviser on Freedom of Religion or Belief, who works in the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights. The Council of Europe is a leading institution in the field of human rights but mainly focuses on Non-European cases.
The author gathers the tools of international law before making any assumptions since they provide the means (lustration, reparation) to investigate cases on Christian persecution. To analyse the atrocities in Syria, the UN Human Rights Council established the Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic. The United Nations General Assembly created a mechanism in 2016 to find the perpetrators in Syria, but it does not investigate.
The ICC’ statute has four categories for international crime: genocide, war crime, aggression and crime against humanity, and though Christian persecution falls under the genocide category, the ICC lacks the means to enforce the verdict (because the perpetrator is not part of the Statute of Rome).
In the conclusions, the author wrote that the most important part is prevention. It is very important that the international community should prevent any violations of human rights. If the violations are imminent, the governments must act within their own rights to stand up for religious freedom. Governments should not support state, civil or international projects that are anti-Christian. Governments that are loyal to the cause should propagate global alliance for religious freedom, but they have to prevent any changes or loosening of interpretation when it comes to religious freedom.