Christophobia in India and the European parliament

The European parliament condemned anti-Christian violence in India but failed to stop the christophobia of its members during the presence of Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I in the chamber. In today's plenary session, the European parliament adopted (392 in favour, 44 against with 29 abstentions) a wide-ranging resolution ahead of the upcoming European Union-India summit scheduled to take place on 29 September in Marseille (France).

The extension of the EU-India strategic relationship (between the world's two largest democracies) is at the core of the motion, especially in terms of the economy, international politics and India's social problems.

One (of the 34 paragraphs) addressed the issue of anti-Christian violence in the Indian state of Orissa. It expressed "deep concern" for attacks against Christians, calling for compensation to be paid out to Churches and individuals for the property they lost. The resolution also stressed the need for the perpetrators of the destruction to be brought to justice and called on the central government and national authorities to "fully protect" India's Christian minority.

In today's session held in Brussels, the European parliament welcomed the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, Bartholomew I, who spoke to the assembly around noon.

In his address the patriarch referred to the value of religion for Europe and Turkey and the potential of building cultural bridges thanks to religious faiths this year, which the European parliament dedicated to intercultural dialogue.

The event however highlighted the christophobia that also existing within this European institution. Many Green, Liberal and Socialist MEPs were absent during the patriarch's address, probably because a Belgian Social MEP, Véronique De Keyser, released a statement in which she "sounded the alarm for democracy and the separation of church and state."

The Belgian lawmaker warned that under the "mantle of the intercultural year" religions "have gone on the offensive," something which violates the principle of separation of church and state on which the European parliament is based.

In her statement she accuses the patriarch of Constantinople and Benedict XVI for daring to claim that "Europe's moral values are Christian moral values."

In addition, she warns that if people are not careful in upholding the division between politics and religion "the extreme right might take advantage." For this reason she urged her fellow MEPs to boycott the session to which the patriarch was invited to speak.