Wien, 10. December 2012 Press release

Lopatka: "Austria aims for early warning mechanism in religiously motivated conflicts"

World-wide protection of persecuted Christians is a fundamental element of Austria's human rights policy

Vienna, 10 December 2012: "Out of concern about the increasing violence against religious minorities worldwide, which increasingly also affects Christians, Austria at an initiative of Vice-Chancellor Spindelegger advocates an early warning mechanism of the European Foreign Service in the event of religiously motivated conflicts. Hardly a day goes by without reports about bloodshed, persecution and displacement motivated by religious reasons, especially in the countries of the Middle East, Asia and Africa. The share of Christians among people persecuted for their religious beliefs is 70 percent. Every year, more than 100,000 Christians are killed because of their religion", State Secretary Dr. Reinhold Lopatka said at a press conference of the platform "Solidarität mit verfolgten Christen" in Vienna.

An EU task force for the protection of religious freedoms has already been established at the initiative of Austria. Today, Vice-Chancellor Spindelegger is going to submit concrete proposals for conflict prevention mechanisms in Brussels. "The Austrian proposals refer mainly to ensuring continuous and systematic monitoring by the European Foreign Service and to the early adoption of the EU guidelines for religious freedom and protection of religious minorities", Lopatka said. "The EU should respond to religiously motivated risks and threats in a timely and transparent manner by means of an early warning mechanism". Besides Vice-Chancellor Spindelegger, the new European Union's Special Representative for Human Rights, Stavros Lambrinidis, and Italian Foreign Minister Giulio Trezi as well as experts of several EU institutions and representatives of the civil society will attend the seminar in Brussels.

"Almost one third of the world's population live in countries where the every-day life of religious minorities is determined by social repression. The dialogue and prevention aspect is, therefore, particularly important to us", the State Secretary said. Freedom of belief and conscience and the protection of religious minorities will also be central topics at the 5th Annual Meeting of the UN Alliance of Civilisations, to be held in Vienna next February.

"To ensure protection from discrimination and violent attacks, we will have to employ the tools of the UNO, EU, OSCE and the Council of Europe to cooperate globally in developing protection and violence prevention measures for religiously motivated conflicts", the State Secretary said.

Therefore, Austria is initiating numerous events to bring international experts together to discuss effective proposals for resolution. "The outcome of these events on the protection of religious minorities and freedom of religion are the basis for further steps to strengthen and promote the rights of minorities on an international level", Lopatka said.

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