Annual_Conf_2014Brussels, 24th November, 2014 – The European Coalition for Israel has issued a joint statement to the incoming President of the European Council and the EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, calling for immediate action in support of the persecuted religious minorities in Syria and Iraq and for a coherent strategy against the surge of anti-Semitism in Europe. EU High Representative, Federica Mogherini, took office on November 1 and the incoming President of the European Council,Donald Tusk, will assume office on December 1.

On Thursday, November 20, 2014, the statement was read and handed over to the Director of the EU European External Action Service (EEAS), Christian Berger, in connection with the ECI 11th Annual Policy Conference in the European Parliament in Brussels. The letter, which calls for internationally monitored safe havens for the persecuted minorities in Syria and Iraq, is co-signed by the European Jewish Congress, Pentecostal European Fellowship, and One Free World International, making it a unique cooperation between Christians and Jews in support of religious freedom.

ECI Director, Tomas Sandell, noted at the conference that one of the few voices, which has been raised up in support for the persecuted Christians in Syria and Iraq, has come from the Jewish community. When the world at large has kept silent, Israeli Ambassador to the UN, Ron Prosor, has repeatedly raised the issue at the UN level. In Brussels, Raya Kalenova, the Executive Vice-President of the European Jewish Congress, signed the joint statement. At the conference, she spoke about the importance of the moral support from Christians friends in Europe.

“Whereas each day of Jewish life in Europe is filled with uncertainty and security considerations, here I feel among friends”, she said. Kalenova, who spoke about the rise of anti-Semitism in Europe, agreed that it is high time that we address the plight of Christians in the Middle East.

The joint statement was also signed by Egyptian-born, Human Rights activist Majed El Shafie, who expressed the need to stand together against the forces that want to erase religious freedom. Today, he is the Founding President of the organization One Free World International which works for religious liberty around the world. At the conference, he spoke about his life as a former dissident in Egypt, and how he found refuge in Israel. Having been brought up believing Israel was the enemy, today he is a friend of the Jewish state because of its values and principles, which protects minorities in a region where oppression is the norm.

The policy conference, which brought together EU lawmakers and officials with ECI activists from different parts of Europe, also made a call to the EU to stop the funding of hate. In his panel discussion with Christian Berger (EEAS director for the Middle East), Sandell noted that the EU is the single largest donor to the PA, and therefore needs to make the funding conditional on the end of incitement. He noted that the brutal killing of the four rabbis in the synagogue in Jerusalem on Tuesday was preceded by a call from PA leader Mahmoud Abbas for “a day of rage.”
“Incitement leads to action and those who fuel incitement need to be made accountable,” said Sandell. Berger agreed that education is the key to the peace process in the Middle East.

The conference noted the untimely vote in the Spanish Parliament that supported a Palestinian state, just a few hours after the massacre in Jerusalem.
“We cannot fight terror in Syria and Iraq, and put it in to government in Ramallah”, Sandell continued and was supported by Majed El Shafie who called Isis and Hamas, “the same expression of the one and the same hateful ideology of radical Islam.” Hamas, which has praised the recent massacre in Jerusalem, is currently a coalition partner of Fatah in the PA unity government.  A similar vote in the European Parliament is expected in mid-December.

The conference, which was hosted by Dutch MEP Bastiaan Belder, also featured Swedish MEP Lars Adaktusson, Slovak MEP Branislav Skripek, ECI Legal Counsel Andrew Tucker, and Israeli Deputy Ambassador Ronen Gil-Or, who all spoke up for the persecuted Christians and other religious minorities in Middle East and the need to stand together with Jews in Europe and Israel.

ECI Chairman, Harald Eckert from Germany, concluded the conference by stating that Europe has a moral duty to teach the world about the ultimate consequences of anti-Semitism.
“Seventy years after the liberation of the Nazi death camps in Europe, this educational campaign needs to be strengthened both in Europe and in the Middle East”, he concluded.