By Sarah Mac Donald - 14 May, 2015
Ongoing persecution is an issue that unites all Christians Bishop McAreavey tells Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and Trade.
The Bishop of Dromore, who is chair of the Council for Justice & Peace of the Irish Catholic Bishops’ Conference, made a presentation to the Committee along with Áine O’Reilly of the Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem.
Trócaire, Open Doors and Church in Chains were also represented.
In his presentation, Bishop McAreavey highlighted how the ongoing persecution of Christians is an issue that unites all Christians.
According to estimates of the Centre for the Study of Global Christianity in the US, 100,000 Christians are being killed every year because of their faith. That totals eleven people every hour.
Others are being tortured, imprisoned, exiled, threatened, excluded, attacked and discriminated against on a widespread scale, the Bishop of Dromore warned.
He cited the Pew Research Centre finding which says Christianity is now the world’s most oppressed religious group, with persecution against Christians reported in 110 countries.
The Bishop highlighted that many of the countries guilty of these human rights abuses have significant trade links with Ireland.
He warned that persecution is increasing in China; in North Korea a quarter of the country’s Christians live in forced labour camps; while Saudi Arabia, Yemen, and the Maldives all feature in the 10 worst places to be Christian.
“According to the International Society for Human Rights, a non-religious organisation, 80 percent of all acts of religious discrimination in the world today are directed against Christians,” Bishop McAreavey stated.
He said the situation for Christians in the Middle East is “particularly acute and shocking” as the rise of ISIS had accelerated a brutal religious genocide against Christians and other religious minorities that has been on-going for well over a decade.
“I believe many Christians in Ireland, of all denominations, too are appalled at the relative lack of attention being given in the Irish media, in political discourse and in Irish Government policy and action to the urgent plight of persecuted Christians in the Middle East at this time.”
“Young men brutalised and left to die on make-shift crosses in town squares in the part of the world that was once described as the cradle of Christianity and of civilisation itself. Ancient Churches and religious monuments from various traditions being destroyed.”
The Bishop appealed to the politicians to respond to these atrocities.
“Such barbaric actions call for an urgent, coordinated and determined response from the international community. They are a threat to our common humanity and to the religious and cultural patrimony of the world for future generations.”
Dr McAreavey referred to a conversation he had had with senior representatives of the Christian community in Iraq in recent days, though he did not name who it was in order to protect their security.
“They simply cannot understand why so many in the international community turn a blind eye to their plight.”
“Many governments, including the Irish Government are supplying modest amounts of emergency aid. This is welcome and helps to address some immediate humanitarian needs.”
“However there is a reluctance, including on the part of Christian based international aid agencies, to give direct support to minority religious communities, including to the Christian Churches.”
Yet if their presence is to remain, he warned, and if they are to draw strength from one another and continue their own religious, educational and charitable activities in the places where they live and work, where they have contributed for millennia to the shared educational, economic and cultural patrimony of their countries, then they need direct aid.
The Bishop of Dromore said the Irish bishops’ concern is for all humanity.
“We utterly condemn the grotesque targeting and brutal murder of those with same-sex attraction by ISIS. We stand in solidarity and support with the Yazidi and other religious communities who face a similar extermination, displacement and lack of respect for their right to religious freedom and conscience as their Christian neighbours.”
“We appeal to all governments and societies to affirm the vital importance of respecting the right to religious freedom and conscience as a fundamental principle of genuine pluralism in a tolerant society,” he said.
More information: http://www.churchinchains.ie/node/803