STRASBOURG, France, Jan. 21 (UPI) -- European parliamentarians want to sanction countries that fail to protect their religious minorities, a move to protect Christians all over the world following violence against them in Africa and the Middle East.
In a resolution adopted Thursday by the European Parliament, they called for the drafting of "a list of measures against states that knowingly fail to protect religious denominations," news Web site EurActiv quotes from the text.
Lawmakers want Brussels to discuss what kind of "instruments ... can be used to provide security and protection for Christian communities under threat," reads the document, EurActiv reports. MEPs also called on the EU to regularly monitor religious intolerance in countries around the world.
"The lack of protection against terrorist attacks is sometimes associated with state-sponsored or tolerated discrimination and harassment," European Parliament President Jerzy Buzek said in a statement. "Together with the Parliament, I firmly condemn these events and these political attitudes. In so doing, we do not restrict our attention to Christians alone. Every single man and woman in the world can count on the European Parliament as a beacon of human dignity and fundamental rights and freedoms, whatever his or her belief may be."
Catherine Ashton, the EU's foreign policy chief, pledged that the issue would be discussed at a meeting of EU foreign ministers on Jan. 31 "so that the EU can step up its efforts to promote religious freedom."
"Long-established Christian communities in the Middle East face difficulties, which have led to significant displacement in some countries and dwindling numbers in the region as a whole," EurActiv quoted Ashton as saying in Strasbourg. "The EU will not turn a blind eye to their plight."
The move comes after several recent incidents of violence against Christian communities in countries around the world.
Twenty-one people died in a Jan. 1 bombing of a Christian Coptic church in Alexandria, Egypt, setting off days of protests and riots by Christians who said the government encouraged discrimination and didn't do enough to protect them.
Terrorists have also attacked predominantly Christian areas in Iraq. Thousands of Christians have fled to the stable Kurdish provinces in the north of the country, where they're better protected.
In Nigeria, hundreds of people were killed in March 2010 clashes between Muslims and Christians.