The EPP Group hosted Maronite Patriarch Cardinal Rahi for discussions on the future of Christians in the Middle East. The head of the Maronite community warned that Christian communities and heritage may disappear forever as a consequence of the persecutions by Daesh/ISIS.

The EPP Group's Working Group on Intercultural and Religious Dialogue is following the worrying situation of Christians in the Middle East on a regular basis. "I have made several trips myself and witnessed the destruction of ISIS and the sacrifice Christians and Muslims must endure to survive. It is our political responsibility and moral obligation to maintain relations with and help persecuted minorities in the Middle East”, underlined György Hölvényi MEP, Co-Chair of the working group.

"There is no persecution in Europe, whether you are Jewish, Muslim or Christian. This should be no different in the Middle East. By defending Christians, Europe is defending itself and the values on which it was founded”, recalled Antonio Tajani MEP, Vice-President of the European Parliament.

Cardinal Bechara Boutros Rahi delivered a strong message: "The genocide of Christians is not just physical. It's also cultural, economic and social. The Church will survive and continue its mission as it has for the last two thousand years. But the community, the heritage of those who were the first to receive Christian culture and faith will disappear. Europe should not forget about the Middle East. Similar cooperation is necessary among countries. However, Muslims will never give up their cultural heritage, secularism is not a path they wish to take, and the world must respect this."

Cristian Preda MEP highlighted the difficulty in finding solutions where we are dealing with failed states. "Christians need to be recognised as Christians, not as a minority. Crimes against Christians committed by Daesh has always been an impossible subject to talk about in its own right because other political groups simply do not want to hear about Christians", he said. While other groups are also victims, Christians face an unequal threat to their survival.

Michèle Alliot-Marie MEP warned: "Conflicts have multiplied based on economic, social and other reasons. If people leave, their culture disappears. If we take into account the conflicts, the poverty and dire economic and social prospects of regions around the world, the outlook is bleak. The migration crisis might just be the beginning of an even larger migratory flow. The Mediterranean has been and should remain an area where we respect culture and practice tolerance."

"Europe must do more to make the Middle East stable, peaceful and safe. A peaceful Middle East needs Christians and Christians need our support. We cannot turn a blind eye and His Beatitude challenged us to look with our eyes wide open and respond to the needs of our brothers and sisters", underlined Mairead McGuinness MEP, Vice-President of the European Parliament.

"Nowadays, the number of Christians in the Middle East is decreasing drastically. Without support, they will be replaced by extremists", said Ramona Nicole Mănescu MEP. Quoting Martin Luther King, she said: "We will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends."

Jan Olbrycht MEP concluded the conference: "The consequences are not limited to Christians in the Middle East. They affect Christians all over the world. It's time to develop a Euro-Mediterranean area. We have to remember that both Christians and Muslims are suffering. They can live together in Lebanon and this should be an example for Europe. However, we need to remember that even the Lebanese model is in danger today."

NOTE TO EDITORS

The EPP Group is the largest political group in the European Parliament with 215 Members from 27 Member States

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