Major milestone in protecting religious freedom in Middle East and Africa

On Friday 31st of October, Peter van Dalen (MEP ECPM) together with Leo van Doesburg (Director European Affairs and Policy Advising) had a meeting with the representatives of the Interparliamentary Assembly on Orthodoxy (IAO) in the Hellenic Parliament in Athens. Main aim was to look for ways to collaborate between the European Parliamentary Working Group on Freedom of Religion or Belief and the IAO to promote and protect religious freedom mainly in the Middle East and Africa.

The IAO was established in 1993 and exists of Groups of East Orthodox national Parliament Members from 25 different countries. Main aim is to strive for unity amongst the different orthodox countries and the freedom of religion or belief. They are also active in supporting the persecuted churches in different countries in the Middle East and Africa and signed an agreement with the Pan-African Parliament.

On behalf of the IAO, Mr Sergey Popov with his advisor Valery Alexeev and the General Secretary Anastasios Nerantzis with his advisor Kostas Mygdalis took part in the meeting.

The Interparliamentary Assembly of Orthodoxy showed their full support for the European Parliamentary Working Group on Freedom of Religion or Belief in European Parliament and will also do their best to promote this Working Group amongst their national parliamentarians. Mr. Nerantzis mentoned: “We need to work closely together within the international and European institutions to defend Christian communities against violent attacks of other groups”. Therefore the IAO recognizes the importance of this working group becoming an intergroup and will support this amongst their European Parliament Members. The need to urge the Islamic Conference and the individual parliaments from Islamic countries to openly condemn the terrorist and sectarian violence against Christian communities was also discussed and expressed.

Most of the discussions were focused on the situation of Christians in the Middle East and Africa. The IAO maintains close contacts with the churches in the Middle East and in several African countries and is therefore confronted with the persecutions itself. Peter van Dalen highlighted his activities in the European Parliament to bring these problems under the attention of the European Parliament and promised that he will bring the concrete cases that the IAO mentioned under the attention.

A milestone has been set. The IAO and European Parliamentary Working Group on Freedom of Religion or Belief will strengthen the collaboration both in the region in the Middle East and Africa as in the European institutions to defend the freedom of religion or belief.

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