Appeal for Persecuted Christians

Meeting for friendship among peoples 2013

«Finally a thought for Christians who, in various parts of the world, have difficulty in openly professing their faith and in being recognized and given the right to live with dignity. They are our brothers and sisters, courageous witnesses - even more numerous than our martyrs in the early centuries - who endure with apostolic perseverance the many current forms of persecution. Quite a few also risk their lives to remain faithful to the Gospel of Christ. I wish to assure my closeness in prayer to individuals, families and communities who suffer violence and intolerance and I repeat to them the consoling words of Jesus: "Take courage, I have overcome the world" (Jn 16:33).

From Pope Francis’ World Mission Day 2013 Message

It is painful to see that, even today, in many regions of the world, it is not possible to freely practise and express one’s religion without risking one’s own personal freedom and even one’s life. In this dramatic context, Christians are currently those who suffer most because of their faith. Every year in the world, over 100 thousand Christians are killed and many others are forced to undergo every sort of violence: rape, torture, kidnapping and the destruction of places of worship, but more silent and sophisticated forms of prejudice and opposition exist to believers and their religious symbols.

Christians are threatened, physically attacked and killed in many countries. Christians are also at the centre of discrimination, in many different ways, including in those countries where nihilism dominates and exercises cultural hegemony which is unable to accept those who, in a climate of authentic pluralism, wish to make reference to an ideal, a religion or a faith.

This is a dramatic reality about which little is said, which is concealed or deliberately erased as regards its true dimensions, except in some extreme cases of violence which must necessarily be reported, but which cannot be ignored because, besides offending human dignity, it represents a threat to security and peace and prevents achieving authentic and integral human development.

The evangelical message is in itself a dispute against all conformity inflexible to all power. Consequently, the existence of Christians is in itself an antidote to the intrusiveness of power. A civil institution which respects the freedom of such a reality is therefore in itself tolerant towards every other authentic form of human association. The recognition of the role, including the public role of the faith and of the contribution it can give to the progress of human beings is therefore a guarantee of freedom for everyone, not only for Christians. For this reason, defending the right to exist of Christians means defending the free life of everyone.

The capacity to meet others inasmuch as human beings, to cherish and recognize in the faith and thought of our neighbour a sincere attempt to answer the demand for meaning in each and every one of us, is an essential aspect of Christian presence in history.

The Rimini Meeting has tried to contribute to friendship among peoples, and its 34 years of history are the documentary evidence, as unexpected as it is desired, of the precise desire of the heart – desire for truth, for beauty, for justice and for happiness – to make friends of men and women of different faiths and cultures, ethnic or ideological origins, thus becoming a source of authentic respect and therefore of peace.

For this reason, from the Rimini Meeting 2013 – in answer to the cry of Pope Francis – we launch an appeal which all people of good will are asked to endorse:

We ask national institutions and international organizations, according to the rules of international law, to do all possible to defend, look after, protect and guarantee the existence of Christians the world over.

We ask that Christians be acknowledged the elementary right to seek and testify to the truth, preventing all restrictions of their freedom to express themselves and convene.