The European Parliament has officially welcomed a delegation of Christian leaders from Iraq and Lebanon at its last plenary session of the year.
The move comes at a time when concern is high for the welfare of under-pressure Christians and other minorities in Iraq and other countries throughout the Middle East.
"It is clear that there are some fundamentalist elements seeking to create sectarian division within the Iraqi society where Christianity has been an integral part of the fabric of Middle Eastern society for two millennia. We monitor the situation closely, I will continue to highlight the issue, at every possible opportunity, of the situation of Christians in Iraq and the broader Middle East region," said Jerzy Buzek, President of the European Parliament.
Mario Mauro, the European Parliament's Rapporteur on the upcoming first EU-Iraq cooperation agreement (involving up to 100 million Euros), added: "I will insist on the inclusion in this text of the principles of fundamental rights and democracy. This agreement cannot be reduced solely to economic issues, but should be an instrument for the EU to contribute to bringing peace back to the country."
The head of the EU - Iraq delegation, Struan Stevenson emphasised during a 75 minute meeting with the delegation the importance of carefully monitoring the use of the hundreds of programmes aimed at Iraqi reconstruction and peace building, as well as fostering sustainable development and economic integration.
Following a resolution on Iraq after attacks against Christian communities within the country, French MEP Constance le Grip has said that the parlaiment will continue to ensure that the concerns of Christians and minority groups will continue to be given priority in dealings with Iraq.
More than 131 ,embers of the European parliament, from all political groups, denominations and EU countries, signed a solidarity message which was hand delivered, on the eve of Christmas break, to the Christian delegation.
The visitors to the Parliament were: Archbishop Matti Matoka (Baghdad-Iraq), Basile Georges Casmoussa (Mosul-Iraq), Mgr Shlemoun Warduni (Babylon-Iraq), assisted by Dr Melhem Riachy (Kaslik University, Lebanon) and M. Maroun Karam (President fo the Maronite League in Belgium).
In preparation for an upcoming visit to Iraqi, a European Parliament preparatory conference on support for Christians in the Middle East, involving the Council of Europe, will be organised in Lebanon early in 2011.