Christian persecution must be pushed up the political agenda in Ireland to highlight the dire cases people face globally, according to an Irish MEP and TD.
Irish politicians spoke in light of the “horrible dilemma” a persecuted Christian in Pakistan faces after violent protests broke out after her blasphemy acquittal.
The case of mother of five Asia Bibi (49), a Christian in Pakistan who was acquitted of blasphemy after serving an eight-year prison sentence on death row, has grown in prominence worldwide after her verdict drew severe reactions from Islamist protestors. At the time of print Bibi was still being kept in a safe house in a jail for her own safety.
According to DUP politician Jim Shannon MP, who met with two of the Supreme Court judges in Ms Bibi’s case in Pakistan last month on a parliamentary visit, said it is most likely Ms Bibi will be given asylum in Canada.
Asia Bibi’s family have appealed for asylum in the US, UK and Canada.
Labour Party leader Brendan Howlin appealed to the Justice Minister Charlie Flangan to offer asylum to Ms Bibi on RTÉ’s Morning Ireland and also highlighted the issue of worldwide Christian persecution.
“If we are a country that is advocating human rights, that wants to ensure freedom of religion – and there are Christians being at least discriminated against and often persecuted in a number of countries – we should go beyond the rhetoric of that,” he said.
On the wider issue of Christian persecution, Mr Howlin pointed out that Ireland is “currently as a country campaigning for a seat at the United Nations Security Council and one of our selling points is that we will be strong advocates for human rights. We need to deal with the issues of religious persecution across the globe which is rising.”
MEP Mairead McGuinness said she thought it was important Christian persecution is being brought up in Ireland’s “political space”.
She said: “I think that certainly Ireland should be open to providing a safe harbour with our EU colleagues and the problem I think is that these individual cases that are very severe come to our attention, but to tackle this issue at source is important because there are many, many violations of religious freedom.”
The Department of Foreign Affairs said the Minister for Justice has “continued to follow developments in this case”.
“Ms Bibi has not applied for asylum in Ireland to date. Any request for international protection in Ireland from Ms Bibi will be given every consideration,” the department added.