Ireland remains silent on anti-Christian persecution

The Irish Government has again failed to highlight anti-Christian persecution in an international forum, despite earlier calls for greater priority to the issue.

Addressing the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva, Switzerland on Monday, Joe Costello, Minister of State at the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, spoke on human rights, identifying “a number of priorities for my delegation…during our term of membership of the Council”. However, the minister made no reference to anti-Christian persecution, despite the attention now being afforded internationally to the issue.

Referring to the conflict in Syria, Minister Costello acknowledged “atrocities [and] mass violations of basic human rights” against civilians, but made no reference to the targeting of Christians by Islamist groups there.

Irish silence on the issue continues despite a call from former Labour Party Chairman Colm Keaveney in September for the Irish Government to do more to highlight anti-Christian persecution.

“What we need to see is the Department of Foreign Affairs taking action to address the persecution of Christians around the world, particularly in Syria,” Mr Keaveney said in the wake of a bomb attack on a Christian church in Pakistan which killed 85.

Ireland’s stance is set against the February 27 address by Lord Alton in Britain’s House of Lords, when the “systematic targeting” of Christians was highlighted by the peer during a debate on Syria.

In January, meanwhile, Archbishop Francis A. Chullikatt, the Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the United Nations was invited to a United States congressional hearing to speak on anti-Christian persecution, which he stressed “rages in the Middle East even as we meet”.

That same month, Taoiseach Enda Kenny led a delegation to Saudi Arabia but did not raise that country’s dire record on human rights and intolerance of non-Islamic faiths on its territory.

A day before Minister Costello’s latest address, Pope Francis delivered a homily in Rome in which the Pontiff lamented ongoing anti-Christian persecution.

“They are condemned for having a Bible,” he said. “They can’t wear a crucifix…let’s spare a thought for the many brothers and sisters who today – today! – cannot pray together because they are persecuted. They cannot have the book of the Gospel or a Bible because they are persecuted.”

In response to a question submitted by this paper to the Department of Foreign Affairs, it was claimed that Ireland works “discreetly with “bilateral partners” in assisting persecuted Christian communities.