Intolerance and discrimination against Christians needs to be addressed, concludes OSCE meeting

VIENNA, 4 March 2009 - OSCE participating States need to do more to address intolerance and discrimination against Christians, the first OSCE meeting focusing specifically on the topic concluded today. "What came out clearly from this meeting is that intolerance and discrimination against Christians is manifested in various forms across the OSCE area," said Ambassador Janez Lenarcic, Director of the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR), which organized the meeting. "While denial of rights may be an important issue where Christians form a minority, exclusion and marginalization may also be experienced by Christians where they comprise a majority in society." Mario Mauro, Personal Representative of the OSCE Chairmanship on Combating Racism, Xenophobia and Discrimination, also focusing on intolerance and discrimination against Christians and members of other religions, added: "I believe that this meeting has succeeded in raising visibility and highlighting the relevance of the phenomenon of intolerance and discrimination against Christians." Meeting participants discussed several aspects of intolerance and discrimination against and among Christians, including violent attacks against persons, property and places of worship, as well as restrictions to the right to freedom of religion or belief. Participants also highlighted inaccurate portrayals of Christian identity and values in the media and political discourse, leading to misunderstandings and prejudice. They stressed the need for inter-religious dialogue, as many challenges faced by Christians are also shared by members of other religious communities across the OSCE region. Participants called for improved collection of data on hate crimes against Christians, the adoption of freedom of religion laws in line with international commitments and assistance to states and civil society in raising awareness of relevant standards.