Religious freedom takes center stage in Europe

By June 26, 2013

Europe (MNN) — Europe seems to be making religious freedom a priority. The European Union (EU) recently adopted guidelines to protect religious freedom in each of its 27 member nations.

According to Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW), the Guidelines on Freedom of Religion or Belief outline aspects central to protecting and promoting religious freedom.

(Cover image courtesy EU Facebook page; story image courtesy Guy MOLL from Faro, Portugal)

(Cover image courtesy EU Facebook page; story image courtesy Guy MOLL from Faro, Portugal)

Using these principles, the EU hopes to support individuals and communities facing persecution, address violations when they occur, and prevent future incidents.

“It really puts the onus on the different governments to protect minorities, and to provide religious freedom to the people of their country,” says Todd Nettleton of Voice of the Martyrs USA.

“It’s hard to know how each individual government will interpret that, how they’ll put it into practice, but at least on paper it appears to be encouraging.”

Nettleton says the guidelines are significant in light of Europe’s growing Muslim population.

According to the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, the number of Muslims in Europe skyrocketed from 29.6 million in 2990 to 44.1 million in 2010, and is projected to reach 58 million by 2030.

Ongoing unrest in the Middle East is a major contributing factor to this influx. It also played a part in the push for religious freedom protection.

“Following the Arab Uprisings, questions of religion or belief in authoritarian regimes, fragile states and societies in transition came to the fore,” a CSW article states, “with an explicit need for the EU to develop policy on how to respond to these complex issues and developments.”

For Christians, the Guidelines are a two-sided coin.

“In theory, this is helpful to ministry because it does provide for the freedom of belief and the freedom to change your belief, which is obviously the core of the Gospel message,” states Nettleton.

“On the other hand, our freedom and our protection and our call to ministry is not really incumbent on what the government says, or what documents are signed or what restrictions are in place. We have a call to go forth and share the Gospel, regardless of those things.”

Pray for the Body of Christ in Europe as it continues to share the Good News. Pray also for the nations of Europe.

“There obviously is a great Christian history in those countries. But in many of those countries today, the Christian population is a very small percentage,” Nettleton says.

“We can be reminded by this document and by the European Union speaking out on this that we also need to be in prayer for the nations of Europe, and for the ministries that are actively reaching out in those countries.”

Click here to see how Voice of the Martyrs USA helps persecuted Christians around the world.

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