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‘Religious freedom is at the heart of human rights’

By Sarah Mac Donald - 02 January, 2015

Bishop John Buckley of Cork and Ross has highlighted the “terrible persecutions of Christians in the Middle East especially in Iraq and in Syria” in his New Year’s Day homily.

In his homily at the Church of St Francis on Liberty Street in Cork city for World Day of Peace, Dr Buckley told the congregation, “Today, in too many countries, people are being killed and persecuted for their religious beliefs.”

Referring to the “horrific scenes of violence and persecution” seen on television and the “dreadful images of executions perpetrated by ISIS”, the Bishop said “Religious freedom is at the heart of human rights.”

He added, “Turning to violence in the name of religion is a perversion of everything that a religion stands for.”

Affirming that no one can be compelled to accept a particular religion, Bishop Buckley recalled that Pope Francis has repeatedly asked us not to turn away from the suffering of our fellow human beings who are persecuted on account of their faith.

He also recalled his meeting before Christmas with the Bishop Audo of Aleppo who told a gathering, during his visit to Cork of the sufferings of his people in Syria and of the thousands of people who are being forced violently from their homes.

“He said that he was saddened by the indifference of western countries – including our own – to their persecution,” Bishop Buckle related.

The Bishop said that it was remarkable that the Christian communities have survived in this region for over two thousand years, back to the time of the Roman Empire, but that within the past year they have been wiped out, killed and hunted from their homeland.

Dr Buckley appealed to all people to pray for those who were suffering and to those with responsibility to do whatever they could to highlight and end this injustice.

“The Lord is saying to all of us on this day of Peace, as He said to St Peter, put up your sword,” Bishop Buckley said.

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