Reply of the Federal Government to the Earnest Inquiry of Representatives Hermann Groehe, Dr. Heiner Geissler, Monika Brudlewsky, Dr. Christian Schwaz-Schilling, Matthaeus Strebl, Dr. Norbert Bluem, Rainer Eppelmann, Hubert Hueppe, Hans-Peter Repnik, Dr. Erika Schuchardt, Dr. Hans-Peter Uhl and the Party of the CDU/CSU. Congressional Document 14/1279 of June 22, 1999 On the Persecution of Christians in the whole world: The persecution of Christians of all denominations has taken on alarming proportions in the last few years. Christians are being discriminated because of their faith, losing jobs and homes, being imprisoned, abducted, disfigured and murdered; their churches are being burned down and their houses destroyed. According to the German Evangelical Alliance (Deutsche Evangelische Allianz), approximately 163,000 Christians were killed for their faith in 1998.
The Charta of the United Nations has set the goal, that ”The respect for human rights and the basic rights of all people without discrimination due to race, sex, language or religion is to be encouraged and reinforced.” (Chapter I, Article 1, Paragraph 3). The General Declaration on Human Rights recognizes the rights of all people to liberty of thought, conscience and religion, including the right to change one’s religion or world view, i.e. to ”express these ideas alone or together with others, publicly or privately through instruction, exercise, worship service and the observance of religious practices.” (Article 18). In numerous further international agreements, primarily in the Pact on Civil and Political Rights (Art. 18), in the International Agreement on the Elimination of all Forms of Racial Discrimination (Article 5 d, vii), and above all, in the Declaration of the elimination of all forms of intolerance and discrimination due to religion and conviction, as well as in the Declaration of the rights of persons of national, ethnic, religious or linguistic minorities, every human being is guaranteed the right to freedom of religion and world view. We believe our activity on the behalf of persecuted Christians to be part of the general endeavor to secure religious liberty. Because of the Christian background of our own political culture, we feel ourselves particularly obligated to solidarity with persecuted Christians. Besides, Christians persecuted because of their faith seldom find advocates in their own governments to represent their interests and are thus dependent on the support of countries with Christians traditions. Reply Remark The Federal Government is regularly informed about the human rights situation in the world. This information has not demonstrated any increasing tendency towards persecution of Christians in recent years. The Inquiry , however, assumes such an increase. The Federal Government has therefore made the Inquiry the incentive to request numerous foreign embassies for additional information. The Federal Government’ Reply to the Inquiry will follow on reception of this information.
Question 1: What is the general attitude of the Federal Government to the question of persecution of Christians? How does the Federal Government evaluate the development of discrimination and persecution of Christians in recent years? Reply:
The right to freedom of religion is one of the most central demands of all basic human rights documents, and the support of universal religious liberty is a fixed and important element of the Federal Government’s Human Rights policy in its international relationships. In bilateral relationships and in those shared with our partners in the European Union, as well as in multilateral relationships such as the United Nations, the Europarat (European Congress) or the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSZE), Germany actively supports the guarantee of the right to exercise religious faith and opposes discrimination due to religious belief.
The basis for an external human rights policy is the unconditional realization of the right to religious liberty and the effective protection against discrimination due to religious belief within Germany. The Federal Government thus takes very seriously the critical remarks made by Professor Abdelfattah Amor, representative of the Special Reports Commission of the Human Rights Commission of the United Nations on questions of religious intolerance, during his visit to Germany in 1997, on the situation of Moslems in Germany.
The prerequisite for the credibility of our support for universal religious liberty is that we equally uphold, with the same intensity and in the same manner, the religious liberty of all religions and religious groups and of the victims of religious persecution discrimination irregards of their religious affiliation. The Federal Government follows this principle, guaranteeing protection to the victims of religious persecution, whatever religious group they may belong to. Moslem Ahmadis, Baha’is, Christians (Catholic, Protestant, Syrian-Orthodox, etc.), Sikhs and Yezdis have received asylum etc. in Germany due to their religious faith.
The issue of religious liberty can be deliberated in international forums such as the General Assembly and the Human Rights Commission of the United Nations only under the aspect of the universality and the indivisibility of human rights. In this sense, the Federal Government supports the resolution on intolerance brought by Ireland, which carefully avoids any specification of individual religions.
The Federal Government is decidedly opposed to any one-sided use of the issue of religious liberty. In the 55th session of the Human Rights Commission of the United Nations, the Federal Government, along with its EU partners, expressly opposed an initiative of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC), led by Pakistan, which called for the passing of a one-sided resolution on the supposed defamation of Islam in Western states. Germany and its EU partners were able to convince the member states of the Human Rights Commission, that such a resolution can only seek to oppose the defamation of any religion. The Human Rights Commission in agreement then passed a resolution against the defamation of all religions.
In the same way, the Federal Government is concerned about the observably increasing tendency of some Islamic states to insist on a supposed threat to Islam and to Islamic minorities in the United Nations and to accuse Western states indiscriminately of Islamophobia. To reply with a public reminder of the difficult situation of Christian minorities in some countries of the world, including some Islamic states, would be the wrong response. This sensitive issue of religious liberty would be unnecessarily politicized, and would further burden religious minorities.
In practice, Germany’s and the Federal Government’s support of the freedom of all religions is also determined by the Christian influences on German and European history. The personal involvement of numerous people motivated by the Christian faith for human rights and particularly for persecuted fellow believers, the numerous contacts of church groups with Christian fellowships in other countries and the knowledge of their often difficult situation, and finally the great engagement of German churches for persecuted and discriminated Christians in the whole world have had their influence on the Human Rights involvement of the Federal Government.
Due to the numerous and often close contacts of the German civil population with suffering Christians in the whole world, due to the involvement of German churches in their fates, and due to the wide and detailed knowledge in Germany about their situation, the Federal Government considers itself obliged to assist persecuted Christians in the whole world. The existing contacts of the German civil population with Christian churches in the world are an important element of German human rights involvement. Such involvement does not contradict the concept of the universality and the indivisibility of human rights.
The worldwide development of discrimination and persecution of Christians in recent years has shown no clear tendency.
The question is obviously motivated by the concern that there has been an increase in the persecution of Christians in recent years. The number cited, 163,000 Christians persecuted for their faith in 1998 was taken from the documentation of idea 16/98, by the information service of the German Evangelical Alliance e.V., which refers to a publication of January 1998 of the International Bulletin of Missions Research. The numbers cited there are insufficiently documented. For reasons of method, it is questionable whether these numbers can be used to document an increase in the persecution of Christians.
To be sure, other sources make qualified statements concerning the persecution of Christians, but these are more circumspect in their conclusions. The Special Reporter of the United Nations, Prof. Amor, in his report to the members of the General Assembly of the United Nations on the Opposition to all forms of religious intolerance and discrimination due to religion and faith (UN Document A/54/386), publicized in November 1999, concluded that there was a universal increase in religious extremism in 1999, which had led to violence motivated by religion, but both offenders and victims were to be found in all faiths. Indications that Christians had suffered from these developments more than members of other faiths, are not to be found in that report. According to the estimations of the Protestant Church in Germany (EKD), the situation in most countries in which discrimination against Christians has existed for a long time, remains poor. In some countries, such as India, Pakistan and Indonesian, persecution of Christians has increased. Some of the political foundations involved in the support of human rights in foreign countries have estimated that religious intolerance and discrimination has increased in recent years, not only against Christians, but increasingly.
On the other hand, the comprehensive and very detailed reports of the German Embassies demonstrate no general statement on the increase of persecution of Christians. Particularly the combination of political, social, ethnic and religious factors in various conflicts, in which the religious aspect has been instrumentalised in a non-religious conflict, forbids such a statement. The reports of our foreign embassies do, however, indicate a general observation,
--State action against religion, or state attempts to manipulate or control religions in the name of ideology have decreased. This is due to the collapse of the Communist block in East Europe and the political and social opening of these formerly communist states, including the successor states of the Soviet Union. Christian churches, among others, have profited from these developments. On the other hand, there are some disturbing examples of the opposite case.
State activity against sects and new religious movements, including Christian groups, have increased in some countries. In these cases, missionary activity is seen not only as competition to the traditional religions, but also as the vehicle of foreign cultures and world views, with whose assistance the ideal fundaments of the state are supposedly to be shaken.
--Acts of religious intolerance and discrimination due to religious faith have been increasingly exercised by non-governmental groups. This development is encouraged by the increase in inner-state conflicts, which has been observed for some time. Such attacks occur both from political-religious movements or parties, such as the Taliban in Afghanistan or in the Hindu-nationalist groups and parties in India, as well as between or within religious groups, such as in the conflicts between radical groups of Sunnis and Shiites in Pakistan. All religious groups have been involved. Frequently, governments are incapable or unwilling to counter such activities.
These observations agree to a large extent with the conclusions of the Special Report of the Human Rights Commission of the United Nations.
It is not to be ignored that in recent years, in some countries, attacks on Christians have temporarily increased. In Indonesia, for example, the dramatically increased attacks of the military and the pro-Indonesian police force on the native, mainly Christian population of East Timor was the result of this territory’s struggle for independence from Indonesia. Attacks by the Moslem populations against the Christian population of the Indonesian Molluca Island Ambon, were not motivated by religious factors, but by changes in the balance between two populations. Here, the Indonesian government has endeavored to resolve the conflict with the assistance of communications forums, intermediaries of the national human rights commissions, meetings with regional religious leaders and the improved activity of the military. In India, an increase in incidents against Christians and other minorities has been observed in the last year and a half. In many incidents, ecclesiastical buildings were burnt down, churches were destroyed, Bibles burnt, priests framed, nuns raped and an Australian missionary was murdered with his two sons. Radical Hindu organizations were responsible for these offenses. These groups are close to the BJP, the ruling party, but significant parts of the BJP, above all Prime Minister Vajpayee, have expressly distanced themselves from this ideology and have condemned the incidents described. The government has also been able to rein in these groups. Attacks against Christians have since decreased. The Indian media and the public have condemned these attacks.
Question 2 Is the issue of the persecution of Christians part of the human rights dialogue with other states? What has the government undertaken to raise the awareness of these countries for the issue of religious freedom? Reply The most essential method for raising the awareness of the issue of religious liberty and of enforcing it worldwide remains, in the opinion of the Federal Government, the human rights agreements which guarantee the protection of freedom of religion. These require assistance if they are to be generally recognized and enforced. The Federal Government urges states which have not yet done so, to particularly ratify the International Agreement on civil and political rights, but also the International Agreement on the removal of all forms of racial discrimination or, where applicable, the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Basic Rights.
In the opinion of the Federal Government, the protection against persecution and discrimination due to religious affiliation is best provided by a comprehensive approach which seeks to encourage a mentality of liberty and of government by law, along with a strengthening of government institutions. Wherever Christians are persecuted or discriminated against because of their religious practice, the Federal Government addresses the problem in a bilateral political dialogue. This generally occurs with a basic advocacy of freedom of religion for all faiths. The human rights dialogue is, however, always concrete. Thus, known cases in which Christians have been persecuted are addressed as such, whether or not the incident involves individuals or groups. In this, the Federal Government generally consults its EU partners, in so far as they do not already cooperate in the matter.
In our experience, it is not possible to address all states on this issue in the same way. While some states, such as Sudan, Iran or most of the Central Asian states are willing to openly discuss the situation of Christians or other religious minorities in their countries, this is possible with other states only in a limited fashion. The Chinese and Vietnamese governments show a very limited interest in a dialogue on religious liberty. The Saudi government is only willing to discuss the issue of the practice of the Christian faith when the discussion is discrete.
In the last 15 months, the Federal Government has acted in numerous incidents of pressure, persecution or discriminations against Christians or Christian churches in the whole world. A few examples will be discussed in the following pages.
In Sudan, the Federal Government generally insists on the resolution of the conflict between the Islamic government in Khartoum and the primarily Christian rebel organizations in the South of the country. The Federal Government has been involved in ending the abduction and release of women and children from Christian tribes by Moslem militia, as well as against the forced removal of the office of the Episcopalian Bishop of Khartoum. The Federal Government and its EU partners has approached the government of Yemen about the return of ecclesiastical property in the city of Aden. The Secretary of State received a delegation of Vietnamese bishops in the Foreign Office, to discuss issues of religious liberty and the situation of Christians in that Asian country. Via the EU embassies in Hanoi, and together with other EU member states, the Federal Government continues its dialogue with the government of Vietnam on religious liberty, which includes the situation of Christians in the country. A list of 18 persons, including 7 Christians, imprisoned for the exercise of religion, was submitted to the Vietnamese government with the request that they be freed. The Federal Government, in close contact with Catholic and Protestant religious groups and in agreement with the OSZE intervened with the government of Kasachstan about the proposed law which would have discriminated against non-Moslem and non-Orthodox religious groups. In Aserbeidschan, the Federal Government intervened when a German Lutheran pastor was molested. When Baptists and Pentecostals in Turkmenistan were molested by the security forces, the Federal Government together with our EU partners protested to the Turkmenian government. The attacks of Hindu-nationalist groups on Christians in India were made an issue by the Federal Government to the government of India. During the first half of the year, the Federal Government, in its presiding role in the EU, addressed the Pakistani government about potentially threatening blasphemy paragraphs in the Pakistani penal law, which threatened Christians and Ahmadis particularly. Beyond this, the Federal Government and its EU partners are in a continual dialogue with the Pakistani government on the issue of religious liberty, which concerns Christians and Ahmadis particularly.
The Deputy for Human Rights and Humanitarian Aid regularly deals with the issue of religious liberty in the human rights dialogue and has received representatives of the Baha’i and the Ahmadis in the Foreign Office. During his visit to Pakistan and India in the summer of 1999, he met with leading representatives of the Ahmadis and of the Christian churches, as well as with the Archbishop of Delhi, and explained to them the position of the Federal Government toward their problems in talks with the Pakistani and Indian governments. The problem of unofficial persecution of Christians was a particular issue.
The human rights situation in the partner country is an important criterion for German involvement in economic aid, and thus a subject of regular government settlements dealing with economic and political cooperation with the partner countries. In individual cases, after deliberation, the persecution of Christians or other religious minorities can also be made an issue. This occurred, for example, during the recent government agreements with Pakistan. The government’s economic contract with India had the goal of making the attacks on the Christian minority by Hindu-nationalist groups in 1998 an issue. Due to the atomic tests made in 1998, these talks were canceled by the Federal Government. Since then, neither government discussions nor consultations have been carried out. When the further economic discussions with India are resumed, the Federal Government intends to re-introduce the issue. The Indian side has always been open to dialogue on such difficult issues. Not only for India is it true that a preferential treatment of Christian groups in a multi-religious environment has proven ineffective in conflicts which involved several levels of causes, and seldom serves to protect the Christian population.
The contacts and the involvement of the German civil population can, in the opinion of the Federal Government, play a significant role in raising awareness of the states concerned and in the overcoming of persecution and discrimination against Christians and other religious minorities. The Federal Government welcomes such involvement and endeavors to aid it wherever possible.
The Church naturally plays an important role in supporting Christians in the world. A close net of contacts between individuals, between churches and between church leadership groups are well informed about the situation of endangered Christians and consider themselves responsible to aid them According to the observations of the Federal Government, German churches respond to this responsibility comprehensively, particularly through ecclesiastical developmental aid. In doing so, they follow a comprehensive approach, which aims to aid people to help themselves and to contribute to social conditions in which all people can live in a dignified way, irregardless of their religion, nation, race or sex. In the church’s developmental efforts, the ideal of human dignity forms the development of the social, cultural, mental and religious dimension of humanity. This comprehensive view is the basis of the church’s activity in these areas, in which not only Christians but all men receive attention. The poor are the center of attention, for the church’s feel themselves to be particularly responsible for these. In their work, they see, however, not only the material aspects of poverty, but also the various forms of social and political discrimination and the injury to human and civil rights, including the basic rights of freedom of thought, conscience and religion. Church development projects sometimes also aid specific Christen problems. In Asian countries, for example, the churches support broad projects for basic education and job training, particularly where Christians, as members of lower castes, are denied such possibilities to receive an education. In many projects, the partner organizations of ecclesiastical developmental cooperation are directly involved in the dialogue between Christians and the members of other religious groups and in the cooperation to overcome poverty and injustice. This is an important effort in the dismantling of prejudice and animosity and gives hope of reconciliation in repressive societies. The numerous educational institutions supported by German churches in Africa, the Near East and South and Southeast Asia have made a major contribution to the dialogue between Christians and the members of other religious groups. The ecclesiastical educational institutions, as well as health and social institutions, in these countries are open to the members of other religious groups.
The Federal Government is regularly involved in dialogue with the two major churches in Germany concerning cases of discrimination and persecution of Christians in the world. Both the deputy of the Council of the EKD (Protestant Church of Germany) and the Commission of the German Episcopal Conference have frequently cooperated with Justia et Pax to bring cases of persecution of Christians in a number of countries to the attention of the Federal Government in recent years, and has considered ways of aiding them. The Federal Government reacts to these suggestions according to the situation, by instructing the German embassies to collect information and, depending on the seriousness of the case, to intervene with the institution concerned, or to protest about the activity or neglect of local officials to the government of the country concerned. Prior to state visits by the Federal President or to foreign visits of the Chancellor or of the Foreign Minister, the churches submit information on the difficulties of Christians in the country concerned and request that the right to free exercise of religion be made an issue, and that German representatives encourage improvement in the situation of Christians.
The German political foundations supported by the Federal Government, as civilians, further make valuable efforts in raising awareness of religious liberty in countries concerned. Christians also profit from these efforts. The Konrad-Adenauer Stiftung has been involved in intercultural dialogue since the 70’s. This dialogue began with the Islamic world and has been widened in the 90’s, to include Orthodoxy in Eastern Europe and the cultures of Asia. The foundation reports positive experiences in their dialogues with the churches of Eastern Europe, particularly in Russian, Bulgaria and the Ukraine. In some countries in which the foundation operates with its own colleagues, the issue of religious liberty is a regular part of the program. Besides, in October 1999, the foundation held an international conference on the persecution of Christians in the whole world. The Heinrich-Boell Stiftung led a project in Egypt on education to tolerance between Christians and Moslems. In Pakistan, it carried out projects on religious liberty and the political emancipation of minorities, particularly of Christians. The Friedrich Ebert Stiftung does not carry out projects directly concerning the persecution or discrimination of Christians, but individual events have dealt with the issue of religious liberty. The Friedrich Naumann Stiftung introduces the issue of religious liberty in its constitutional conferences as well as in projects to encourage tolerance between differing ethnic and religious groups in Southeast Europe, in the former Yugoslavia, in India and in Pakistan.
In the multilateral arena, the Federal Government, along with its EU partners, endeavors to keep the issue of religious liberty on the agenda of international forums. It addresses the issue in the United Nations, the OSZE and the European Council, as well as in regional processes such as the Euro-Mediterranean dialogue (the Barcelona Process).
Even though the Federal Government pays most attention to the defense of the liberty of all religions in its multilateral engagements, it does deal with cases of the persecution of Christians. In the annual meetings of the Human Rights commission of the United Nations, the German delegation addresses individual delegations about the situation of Christians in their country. Resolutions on human rights in individual countries introduced by the Federal Government and its EU partners indicate cases of discriminated or persecuted Christians wherever necessary, such as the resolutions to Iran and Sudan. The German delegations to the United Nations in New York and Geneva regularly receive information from Christian organizations such as the World Council of Churches, the Lutheran World Federation, Pax Christi, Franciscans International, Christian Solidarity International and others.
Question 3: How important are the issues of religious liberty and the persecution of Christians in the national reports of the Foreign Office? Reply The reports made by the Foreign Office on situations in the countries (Lageberichte) pertinent to asylum or deportation, referred to by the Federal Office for the Recognition of Foreign Refugees (BAFI) and the administrative courts which decide on asylum applications, regularly include statements on religious liberty and on the situation of minorities. Wherever Christians are persecuted or discriminated against because of their faith, the reports usually give detailed information on the subject.
The Embassies also report individual incidents of human rights offenses.
Question 4 Do the German embassies maintain contact with representatives of Christian churches or fellowships subject to persecution? Is the problem of persecution of Christians addresses locally by human rights organizations? Reply The German Embassies maintain contact with all social groups in the host country on principle. These include representatives of religious groups in the host country. Contacts with Christian churches and groups or individuals threatened with persecution frequently develop on the embassies’ initiative, not least by the participation of embassy personnel in local churches, or on the initiative of the threatened group. Contact is sometimes initiated by German churches or individuals or by the apostolic Nuntiatur. Where extant, human rights organizations active in the region address the situation of Christians and other Christian groups suffering from persecution and discrimination. Generally, these human rights organizations do not need such indications but are well-informed.
In individual countries, contacts with outlawed religious groups are prohibited. This is the case, for example, with Christians in Vietnam.
Question 5: How does the Federal Government evaluate the persecution of Christians and the obstruction of the exercise of their faith in Islamic countries such as Turkey, Iran or Sudan, for example? What knowledge does the Federal Government have about Moslems who convert to Christianity, who are then threatened with the death penalty for apostasy? Reply The situation of Christians, who are considered members of one of the so-called book religions and thus enjoy a special protected status, varies widely. No general statements can be made. In most Islamic countries, the churches are permitted to carry out their church activities and remain, to a large estate, unmolested by the state as well as by non-governmental forces. In many of these countries, the churches can run social establishments such as schools and hospitals. Pressure and the distribution of Bibles is permitted in most Islamic countries. Only missionary activities, especially that of some evangelical groups, which is viewed as aggressive, is persistently impeded. The autochon churches seldom evangelize.
Wherever Christians suffer persecution, intolerance or discrimination from state or non-state activities, this usually has specific historical causes and can seldom be blamed solely on their religious affiliation.
In Sudan, the conflict between the Arabic-Islamic North and the African South is not a religious conflict. Only 20 to 40% of the Sudan’s population are Christians. The rest belong to African religions or Islam. The core of the conflict is the struggle of the black African minority of the South to achieve equal opportunities in political, economic and social developments, as well as to the country’s resources. Since Christians make up a large proportion of the southern population, they suffer particularly from the direct effects of war in the region, as victims of abduction by Moslem militia or as refugees, de-classified socially and economically in the North. Christians who have long resided in the North also suffer individual cases of chicanery by government official or by non-government forces. These include the deliberate destruction of churches built on ground supposedly stolen or disputed. With few exceptions, Christians have no chance to advance to political-administrative positions or to become judges. However, Christians in the South are able to live and practice their faith without restriction. In the greater Khartoum area, there are several hundred churches, probably more than a thousand, which include large, beautiful buildings.
In Egypt, the Coptic Christians are generally well integrated into the Moslem majority of society. They may practice their faith without restriction. They are qualified for civil service, and high offices of state are regularly held by Copts. They suffer from the attacks of Islamic groups to the same extent as moderate Moslems. The successes of the Egyptian government against terrorism, above all in central Egypt, has profited the Copts, who are the majority in the region. Still, the Copts have a few demands on the Egyptian government. These include the cessation of the restricting regulations on the building of churches, a more appropriate consideration of the Coptic proportion of the population in public offices, including leadership positions, an appropriate representation of Coptic history and culture in the curricula of educational institutions and a more frequent transmission of religious programs for Copts in television.
The approximately 500,000 foreign Christians living in Saudi Arabia are not permitted to practice their faith publicly. There are no native Christians. The communal practice of religion in private rooms, for example by Christian guest workers from the Philippines or India, is always in danger of being discovered by the Saudi religious police, and being broken up under the accusation that these meetings are public religious practice. Recently, there have been indications that the Saudi government has begun to tolerate private non-Islamic devotions in the home, but not public, organized worship in non-Islamic places of worship.
Turkey, which considers itself a secular state, guarantees freedom of religion and of conscience in Article 24 of its constitution. In reference to its religious minorities, in the Lausanne Treaty of July 24, 1923, the Turkish state agreed to protect the lives of its citizens irregardless of religion. According to the treaty, non-Islamic citizens enjoy all civil and political rights, equality of rights and opportunity to enter public office, as well as all professions. They have the right to found religious fellowships and educational institutions, and to exercise their religion freely in them, and to speak their own religious language. The Turkish government has, in practice, long accepted only the Greek-Orthodox Church, the Gregorian-Orthodox Armenians and the Jews as non-Moslem minorities according to the Lausanne Treaty. In reality, non-Islamic minorities, particularly those not mentioned in the Lausanne Treaty, feel restricted in the opportunities for development. Many schools have been closed. The names of Christian villages have been adapted to Turkish: cultural and linguistic possibilities are limited. Only minor positions in the government are open to the members of these groups, some professions are not open to them at all. The condition of the Syrian-Orthodox Christians is particularly difficult. In their traditional region in Tur Abdin, in the south east, their population, about 230,000 at the beginning of the 20th century, has been reduced by emigration to about 2000. Their condition has worsened, partly as a result of the conflict between the PKK and the Turkish security forces. Both sides mistrust the group. There have been attacks by the Kurdish majority of the population. The Turkish security forces showed no willingness to hinder such behavior and were unable to prevent several murders. Besides, Syrian-Orthodox Christian villages involved in the evacuations carried out by the Turkish army.
In Iran, the condition of religious minorities, particularly the Baha’i, is difficult. The so-called ‘book religions’, Christianity, Judaism and Zarathustrianism, are protected by the constitution and thus enjoy de jure broad freedoms of religion and are represented in the Iranian Parliament. They are permitted to practice their faith to a large extent, but live in an insecure situation in respect to their long-term future in Iran. Government activities such as accusations of espionage against members of the Jewish community have unsettled other minorities as well. Christians have also suffered from state coercion against the Anglican Church in Isfahan. The murder of an evangelist of the Pentecostal Church, a Presbyterian bishop and a clergyman in 1994, still unsolved in the opinion of the churches concerned, has also frightened many Christians. The religious minorities of Iran suffer from discrimination insofar as they have no opportunity to take office in the upper levels of government.
The constitution of Pakistan provides the most difficult human rights problem for religious minorities. The constitution guarantees freedom of religion in Article 20, but in reference to Christians and Ahmadis, regulations of the Pakistani penal code (the blasphemy paragraph) make theses guarantees worthless. Christians and Ahmadis (about 3% of the population) are often caught in the mills of the police and the judicial system. The occasion, however, is seldom their religion, but personal conflicts with members of the Moslem majority, who use the existing legal situation to molest members of these religious minorities. Christians usually belong to the poorest groups of society and to the lowest professions. In rural areas, they are often victims of illegal evictions. Like all other religious minorities, they have only limited access to the political processes. Although there are 10 seats in the National Assembly reserved for the minorities -- 4 for Christians, who are elected from one state list. In their local districts, Christians have neither the right to vote nor any effective political lobby. The appeals of Christian bishops and politicians for the elimination of the separate right to vote have found little resonance in the Pakistani leadership.
In Indonesia, the state with the numerically largest Moslem population of the world, Art. 29 of the Constitution expressly guarantees freedom of religion, and the state ideology (Pancasila) recognizes no state religion. Religious groups can practice without limitations. Christians and other non-Moslems can also be found in the highest levels of politics and the military. The government endeavors to encourage the dialogue between the religions with its own initiatives, particularly the improvement of the relationship between Moslem and Christian fellowships. The inter-communal conflict which involve Christians, such as in Ambon, Acheh, West-Kalimantan and East Timor, have more to do with economic and political factors than with religious problems. These conflicts usually involve violence against immigrants of different ethnic and cultural backgrounds or against social groups that are economically better off, groups who by chance belong to another religion.
Conversions from Islam to Christianity are seldom in Islamic countries. The allegation of apostasy and the threat of the death penalty under Islamic law because of such a conversion remain a hypothetical danger: many Islamic states consider the Sharia the basis of their national legal system. The traditional, but controversial, interpretation of the Sharia considers the conversion from Islam to Christianity apostasy, which is punishable by death on principle. In reference to material penalties, the Sharia is applied in most Arabic states only when part of the state law. The conversion of a Moslem to any other faith occurs only in exceptional cases, and can thus be defined as a taboo subject in society. Most Islamic states therefore see a need for a legal regulation and for the application of the prohibition on apostasy. There have been no known cases of the application of the death penalty for a supposed apostasy for many years. Conversions from Islam to Christianity are not, however seldom due to strict penalties. Rather, religion determines the individual’s membership to a social group and guarantees his social bonds and solidarity within this group. To abandon one’s religion is to abandon all previous social ties.
Question 6. What possibility does the Federal Republic see, to address the issue of religious liberty with communist or socialist states, such as Cuba or China? What results have been shown in such discussions? Reply Communist or socialist states such as China or Vietnam show, according to the experience of the Federal Government, little willingness to seriously discuss issues of religious liberty in political dialogue. The Federal Government thus considers it important to remind these states of their legal obligations, which derive from the human rights agreements, which they have signed or which they have joined. Particularly the International Agreement on Civil and Political Rights and the International Agreement on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, which have been ratified by most communist states, demand the right to freedom of religion and the prohibition of discrimination due to religious faith, etc.
On Cuba see the reply to Question 8.
Question 7 How does the Federal Government evaluate the right to religious liberty of non-Orthodox Christians in countries whose Orthodox national churches enjoy special privileges? Reply After the collapse of the Communist power block in Eastern Europe and the liberalization of eastern European society, non-Orthodox Christians in countries with an Orthodox national church are generally able to practice their religion without restriction. However, small evangelical churches, whose evangelistic efforts are considered questionable by the population and the government, encounter great suspicion and occasionally restrictions.
In Russia, the Preamble of the 1997 Law on Religion gives the Russian Orthodox Church a special role, and requires religious groups which have not existed in Russia for at least 15 years to register annually. The primarily pragmatic approach of government officials to this registration has calmed the fears of non-Orthodox Christian groups to a great extent. Restrictions of non-Orthodox Christian groups are neither systematic nor centrally controlled, but are usually due to the influence of local orthodox clergymen. Regulations in Macedonia restrict non-Orthodox Christian groups, but the authorities are cooperative in their dealings with these groups. In Bulgaria, non-Orthodox Christian groups report good cooperation with the authorities responsible for churches. Occasional restrictions on the building of churches or on ecclesiastical conferences have been completely due to local authorities and to the negative attitudes of the local population. In Romania, non-Orthodox Christian churches still encounter difficulties in reclaiming property taken by the Communist regime in 1948 and 1949, although the Romanian Orthodox Church has been able to regain most of its property. The new Romanian Minister for Minority Affairs has, however, declared the restitution of the property of religious groups a priority. In Greece, the Protestant churches have the status of legal persons in public law, but not the Roman Catholic Church, which has detrimental effects in administrative matters. The solution offered, to treat individual congregations as registered associations, is not acceptable to the Roman Catholic church. The government endeavors to avoid discrimination against the Catholic minority (about 150,000) in practice.
Question 8 Has the issue of the persecution of Christians because of their social and political engagement, particularly in Latin America or Asia, been addressed in these states? Reply
In Latin America, there is no persecution or discrimination of Christians because of their faith. There have been individual incidents, in which people motivated by a Christian sense of responsibility have become engaged in social, political or human rights activities, for which they have been threatened or persecuted. The Federal Government has paid particular attention to these cases and bring them to the attention of the government concerned.
In Argentina, the Federal Government has paid close attention to the case of the Capuchin Friar and liberation theologian, Fray Antonio Puigjane’, who was condemned to 20 years imprisonment for supposedly taking part in an attack on the barracks of the Argentine Army. His imprisonment was modified to house arrest in June 1998. The German Foreign Minister Kinkel is active in supporting the Pater, who insists on his innocence. In Guatemala, the government supports the activities of the Archiepiscopal Human Rights Office (ODHA) through the Gesellschaft fuer Technische Zusammenarbeit (GTZ: Association for Technical Cooperation), where it pushes for the elucidation of the murder of Bishop Geradi, through a Demarche (yyy not in my dictionary) with the Guatemalan Government and through the dialogue on economic aid in the government talks in October 1999. The bishop was presumably murdered for his human rights engagement. In Columbia, the murders of priests engaged in social problems human rights activities are a constant issue in dialogue with the government. In 1999 alone, there were two spectacular murders of priests, probably by paramilitary groups or guerrillas. The Federal Government is, however, aware, that the Colombian government has lost its monopoly on power in wide areas of the country, and is not able to protect its population. The Federal Government is also aware of attracts against Christians engaged in social and human rights activities by paramilitary groups. The issue of the state’s responsibility for the safety of its citizens is continually addressed with various state institutions. Germany and its EU partners are engaged in a continuous dialogue to encourage respect of human rights, including religious liberty, with Cuba, in conformity with the Common Position of December 2,1996. The Catholic Church and Protestant groups, especially free churches such as the Jehovah’s Witnesses, must operate under stricter conditions as in other Latin American countries, but there is no general or systematic persecution due to religious belief. Incidents in which people are persecuted due to religiously motivated political activities are addressed in the human rights dialogue with Cuba.
Question 9 What possibilities does the Federal Government have, to address non-governmental persecution of Christians in bilateral relations to India or Indonesia, for example, and to bring the incendiary social effects and the governments’ responsibility for the safety of its citizens to the state’s attention. Reply The Federal Government makes an issue of non-governmental persecution due to religious belief, including Christianity, in dialogue with the governments of countries in which such persecution takes place, for example in India or Indonesia. These governments are, as far as the Federal Government can see, aware of the incendiary social and political effects of such persecution, and of their own responsibility for all of their citizens.
Was does the Federal Government intend to do to make the issue of religious liberty more significant and to reduce the potential for conflict caused by religious intolerance? Reply The Federal Government and its EU partners address this issue regularly in multilateral forums and in bilateral contacts. The issue is also important to other states and regions, as the annual report made by the US Secretary of State on religious liberty in the world, or the concern expressed by Moslem states about the religious liberty of Moslem minorities living outside the Islamic world. The issue of religious liberty does not suffer from lack of attention.
Along with the improved attainment of the right to religious liberty through the application of the Human Rights Agreement, the Federal Government considers it essential to resolve the social, economic and political conflicts which frequently lie behind religious conflicts. This can be achieved through political dialogue, economic aid or dialogue between social groups.