A new and aggressive form of atheism which links religion with lack of liberty and oppression has led to a selective interpretation of human rights in which religious freedom counts for little, Bishop Manfred Scheuer of Linz, in Upper Austria, has said.
In his sermon at an ecumenical service at the Linz Coptic-Orthodox church in the Week of Christian Unity, Bishop Scheuer said: "Political correctness does not want to know anything about the ongoing persecution and suppression of Christianity and so it is being ignored in an almost sinister way."
In view of such widespread indifference, opposition was called for, he emphasised, recalling that about one in 10 Christians in the world today is being discriminated against or persecuted. "That is more than 200 million people in 60 countries. But what does Europe care?" asked Bishop Scheuer.
The Coptic-Orthodox Church was a "confessing Christian Church that bears witness to Jesus Christ" in an environment dominated by Islam, Bishop Scheuer recalled. "We owe a special debt of gratitude to the Copts for their steadfastness of faith." Like them, Christians in Europe today should openly bear witness to their faith, he said.
Meanwhile, the Bishop of the Independent Evangelical-Lutheran Church (SELK) in Germany, Hans-Jörg Voigt, said in a pastoral letter that Germany was increasingly refusing to grant asylum to former Muslims who had converted to Christianity. This was a "scandal that is silently taking place under our very noses", he wrote, pointing out that these converts would face persecution if they were deported to their home countries. Within the last two years, the acceptance rate for Christian refugees in a SELK parish in Berlin had plummeted from 100 per cent to under 10 per cent, he said.