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Europe’s attitude to persecuted Christians – round-up

Zoltan Balog, Hungary's Minister for Resources
Zoltan Balog, Hungary’s Minister for Resources

Hungary

A new department to aid persecuted Christians was announced by the Hungarian Government this week. The department will focus on humanitarian work in the Middle East and has been given a starting budget of three million Euros ($3.3 million).

“[We] will do everything in our power to improve the circumstances of Christians living in the Middle Eastern region,” said Zoltan Balog, Hungary’s Minister for Human Resources, whose ministry will oversee the new department.

According to reports by Barnabas Fund the decision to create the department followed a Rome summit in August at which Zoltan Balog and the Hungarian Prime Minister, Viktor Orban, met with Christian leaders from the Middle East in Rome in August. The leaders included Patriarch Ignatius Aphrem II of the Syriac Orthodox Church, who survived an assassination attempt during a church service in Syria earlier this year.

Sweden

notre dame west facadeIn a complete contrast Swedish church leaders opposed an initiative aimed at showing support for persecuted Christians. After the murder of French priest Father Jacques Hamel by jihadists in July three Swedish priests started an initiative called Mitt kors (“My cross”) in which Swedish Christians took “selfies” with a cross to show solidarity with persecuted Christians. However, the initiative has been attacked by liberal church leaders apparently concerned that it might offend Muslims! The head of communications for the church of Sweden even called it “seditious and un-Christian”. The Church of Sweden’s attacks on the “My cross” initiative continued until one of the priests who had started it publicly left the Church of Sweden.

Johanna Andersson, the priest who has resigned later wrote: “Church leadership has for several weeks been running a campaign against us who started the group ‘My cross.’ In this campaign, I have been discredited, called ‘questionable’, ‘unclean’, ‘agitator’, ‘un-Christian’ and attributed xenophobic hidden agendas.”

The Church of Sweden’s campaign against the “My cross” initiative has led Dr Ann Heberlein, a lecturer in Theology at Lund university to accuse it of effectively replacing Christianity with Humanism. In a newspaper article commenting on the church’s stance she suggested that:

“The leadership of the Church of Sweden no longer wants to lead a Christian community; they want to lead a general ethical association for humanistic values of the most vulgar kind.”

Notre Dame Cathedral, Paris
Notre Dame Cathedral, Paris

France

French police last week arrested three female jihadists suspected of being involved in an alleged plot to blow up Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris – one of the most recognisable church buildings in the world.

The three women, including a teenager, were arrested after the discovery last week of a vehicle filled with gas canisters and bottles of petrol outside the cathedral.

The women, who claimed to have been directed by Islamic State, were said to have considered ramming a vehicle filled with explosives into buildings, a tactic used by jihadists in recent attacks in Lebanon and Baghdad.