In what could prove a landmark ruling for oppressed Christians, the European Court of Justice has ruled that people who are persecuted in their native countries due to their religion have the right to apply for asylum in Europe.
Confirming the ruling of a German court, the European Court of Justice – the highest court within the EU – decided that if a person’s right to public worship was ‘gravely infringed’ – they should be granted asylum.
Furthermore, the Court ruled that being limited to private prayer was not a legitimate alternative to the inherent right of public worship – rejecting the notion that religious minorities should limit their profile in the public sphere.
The case in question began when two Pakistani’s of the Ahmadi denomination fled their homeland when faced with increasing threats and state repression. Attention should now turn to other oppressed religious minorities within Pakistan and the wider area, in particular the beleaguered Christian communities, whose plight was recently highlighted by Lord Alton, Chairman of the British Parliament’s Cross-Party Working Group on Human Dignity.
Following the court ruling, Lord Alton told the Institute of the potential consequences: “For too long European nations have continued with a policy of apathy towards the persecution of Christian minorities in distant lands. However, with the possibility of religious communities now fleeing to Europe for asylum, Western governments may finally be spurred into tackling the root cause.
While the question of asylum is a matter that should be properly handled by sovereign national governments (not least because of the additional load to the taxpayer), and not a panel of international unelected judges, the ECJ should be congratulated for recognising the importance of persecuted minorities – and the figures of which are growing.
We have already seen a trend of Christians being forced to flee their homelands. Over 100,000 Coptic Christians fled Egypt last year, while Iraq has seen its own Christian population decrease from 1.4 million in 1987 to fewer than 150,000 today. In addition, the continued violence in Syria is beginning to turn Christian populations away from the Levant.
I would encourage all European governments to recognise that the consequences of inaction are no longer limited to the villages of Pakistan or the streets of Cairo. Failure to act now will result in a greater burden of responsibility for us all further in the future.”