The European Commission appointed Former European Commissioner Christos Stylianides as Special Envoy for the promotion of freedom of religion or belief outside the EU, a position left vacant for two years.

As Special Envoy, Stylianides is responsible for addressing challenges faced by religious minorities in some parts of the world and this includes opening the communication lines with churches and religious communities, reports Greek City Times.

I’ll work with the European institutions, IOs & NGOs to achieve the goals of my mandate & assist EU’s international efforts to protect human rights & promote freedom of religion & reconciliation. —Christos Stylianides, Special Envoy for Religious Freedom

The Special Envoy role was created in 2016 to protect freedom of religion or belief on behalf of the EU in countries where it is threatened or violated. It was introduced following the systematic mass murder of Christians and other religious minorities in the Middle East by ISIS/Daesh.

“Freedom of religion or belief is under attack in many parts of the world. Today’s appointment shows the Commission’s commitment to address this challenge and to ensure that the rights of all faiths and beliefs are respected,” the EU’s executive body said in a statement.

Stylianides, the Cypriot politician who served as the European Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Management from 2014 until 2019, welcomed his new post. He tweeted: “I deeply thank the College of Commissioners for appointing me Special Envoy for the promotion of freedom of religion or belief (FoRB) outside the EU. I accept this appointment with full understanding of the importance of this role.”

He added, “I’ve always been committed to defending & promoting this fundamental human right. I’ll work with the European institutions, IOs & NGOs to achieve the goals of my mandate & assist EU’s international efforts to protect human rights & promote freedom of religion & reconciliation.”

Recent data showed that religious persecution has worsened and many people live in fear because of their beliefs. Having an unconventional belief causes violence, and sometimes death of many in some countries.

Adina Portaru, Senior Counsel for ADF International in Brussels, pointed out the importance of Stylianides’ role, reports Premier Christian News. “Nobody should be persecuted because of their faith. The reappointment of a Special Envoy for the promotion of freedom of religion or belief outside the EU is an important step in showing real commitment to this fundamental right.”

European Commission Vice President Margaritis Schinas welcomed the appointment of the new Special Envoy. “Freedom of religion or belief is under attack in many parts of the world. Today’s appointment of Stylianides as special envoy for the promotion of freedom of religion or belief shows we are determined to protect the rights of all faiths and beliefs. Welcome to the team Christos,” tweeted Schinas.

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