(CNSNews.com) -- "Europe cannot afford to continue ignoring the fate of Christians, who are clearly the most persecuted group in the world,'' European Union Parliament President Martin Schulz said at a conference on religious persecution in Brussels earlier this month.
"It should shake us up that on our continent, Christians are not safe," Schulz, who represents Germany, said.
“No religious community is as subject to hatred, violence and systematic aggression as the Christians,” agreed EP Vice President Antonio Tajani.
European Union leaders met on Dec. 2 and called for the West to break its silence on the plight of Christians, especially those being persecuted in the Middle East.
Schulz said the persecution of Christians is being “undervalued” and “hasn’t been properly addressed” by European governments.
"The West must break the silence on the persecution of Christians in the world and Europe must promote a model of society in opposition to religious radicalism and brutal and criminal projects, such as creating an Islamic caliphate in Iraq and Syria and then extending its tentacles into Libya," said Tajani, who represents Italy.
Europe sometimes "falls into the temptation of thinking we can ignore this task" of defending Christians from persecution, he said.
Among those attending the conference were Reverend Christopher Hill, president of the European Bishops' Conference, Antony Gardner, U.S. ambassador to the European Union, and Helen Berhane, an Eritrean woman who was tortured and imprisoned for 30 months for refusing to renounce her Christian faith.
Speakers cited a report by Open Doors, a group that monitors persecution of Christians. It estimated that 150 million Christians throughout the world have suffered rape, torture and arbitrary imprisonment.
"Islamic extremism is by far the most significant persecution engine" of Christians today, the report stated. It has forced more than 70 percent of Iraqi Christians to flee their country since 2003, and 700,000 Christians to flee Syria since the civil war erupted.
“Each month 200 churches and places of worship in the world are attacked and destroyed. Every day and in every region of the world, there are new cases of persecution against Christians,” Tajani pointed out.
Auxiliary Bishop Jean Kockerols of Brussels reminded the EP representatives that the presence of Christians in Muslim countries “dates back to centuries before the spread of the Koran,” so the notion that Christians have infringed on Muslim territory is false.
Tajani stated that the real causes of the persecution are the very values of Christianity, which are directly at odds with Islamic fundamentalism and other authoritarian regimes.
"These values challenge dictatorial regimes, as in the case of North Korea, or authoritarian political systems," he said.