Christians are the most persecuted religious group in the world, the Austrian foreign secretary has said.
Muslims coming to live or seek refuge in Austria must also recognise and abide by the country’s Christian heritage, while Islamic leaders have to do more to combat extremism, Sebastian Kurz said.
In an interview with Sonntag, the magazine of the Archdiocese of Vienna, Mr. Kurz said he was increasingly concerned by the rise in anti-Christian violence throughout the world.
“It is clear that Christians are the most persecuted group in the world,” he said, adding: “Ensuring their safety is one of our focal points.” He said protecting persecuted Christians was also a key objective for the country’s resettlement policy.
Mr. Kurz, who at the age of 30 is one of the youngest foreign ministers in the world, called for Austrian Christians to be “self-confident” in their identity if they want Muslim migrants to integrate.
“Islam is growing in Austria mainly through immigration from Islamic countries. Christians should be self-confident. Our country is religiously friendly, but at the same time it has a long Christian tradition, and we should also stand by that. And we must demand from those who have just arrived as refugees in recent years that they fully respect those values.”
In terms of the growing threat of extremism, it is up to Muslim leaders to educate their followers. “Islamic religious teachers play an important role here. They must declare that believing Muslims are never to commit such crimes,” the Foreign Minister said.
Religious education, be added, was definitely a part of the solution, and his party would do nothing to abolish it.
“Confessional religious education is just as important today as fifty or even a hundred years ago. It gives an opportunity to discuss fundamental ethical questions. It conveys basic values. It gives a halt, one can better understand one’s own roots and what faith actually makes.”
“Religions are part of the solution,” he added.
Sebastian Kurz has taken a tougher line than some in his party on the ongoing migrant crisis in Europe. In December, he warned it would be “fatal” to believe the crisis is over, and criticised German Chancellor Angela Merkel over her immigration policy.
“It would be fatal to believe that the crisis has been resolved because there are still thousands of people crossing the external borders every week,” he said.
“We must… make it clear that anyone who is found illegally crossing Europe is stopped… He has no chance to get to Central Europe. When we do [this], we end the illegal migratory flows, withdraw the trafficking business, and the most important thing, we end the dying.”