Persecution of Christians is an emergency, says Italy's FM

(AGI) Rome, March 16 - As the world mourned and prayed forChristians in Pakistan following the Taliban attacks on twoLahore churches in which 15 people were killed, Italian ForeignMinister, Paolo Gentiloni, echoed Pope Francis's prayer onSunday: "That this persecution against Christians, which theworld tries to hide, might end, and that there be peace." MrGentiloni said that the persecution of Christians and, moregenerally, of religious minorities are "one of the emergenciesof our time" and, before the meeting with his EU counterpartsin Brussels, called for "Europe to pressure governments tointervene." The two

(AGI) Rome, March 16 - As the world mourned and prayed forChristians in Pakistan following the Taliban attacks on twoLahore churches in which 15 people were killed, Italian ForeignMinister, Paolo Gentiloni, echoed Pope Francis's prayer onSunday: "That this persecution against Christians, which theworld tries to hide, might end, and that there be peace." MrGentiloni said that the persecution of Christians and, moregenerally, of religious minorities are "one of the emergenciesof our time" and, before the meeting with his EU counterpartsin Brussels, called for "Europe to pressure governments tointervene." The two suicide bombings that targeted the CatholicSaint John's church and the Protestant Christ Church inLahore's all-Christian Youhanabad district also wounded 80people. The city's Catholic schools and institutes were closedon Monday to commemorate the victims. Monsignor Sebastian Shaw,the Archbishop of Lahore, defined "martyrs" those "who gave uptheir lives to save the life of all the faithful who were inchurch to attend mass." Joseph Coutts, the archbishop ofKarachi and the president of the Episcopal Conference ofPakistan, "begged" Punjab authorities and the federalgovernment to take "adequate measure to protect the churchesand religious minorities" and called on believers "not torespond to the violence". His appeal was not entirely heeded,seeing the protests and unrests organised by Christians inLahore, Faisalabad and Gujranwala. Referring to the blood bathcaused by sectarian conflicts in jihadist-controlled Iraq,Louis Raphael I Sako, the Chaldean Catholic Patriarch ofBabylon, asked Parliament to pass a law envisaging criminalsanctions for religious preachers instigating to violence andundermining the peaceful cohabitation of citizens belonging todifferent religions and creeds. Christians are not onlypersecuted in the Middle East, falling prey to the conflictsthat sweep across Syria, Iraq and Egypt. Open Doors, theinternational Christian association, estimated that theChristians persecuted or discriminated for their faithworldwide to be almost 100 million. Moreover the persecution ofChristians is a growing phenomenon: the estimated number ofvictims in 2014 was 4,344 in 1,062 churches attacked. (AGI).