Ireland avoids condemning persecution of Christian minorities, at their request

Exposes them to accusations they are legacies of or agents for western intervention

He was responding to a letter from Senator Neale Richmond about the persecution of Christians in the Middle East and North Africa. File photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

Persecution of Christians and other minorities in the Middle East and North Africa has been described as "a deeply disturbing matter" by Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney.

He has noted too how Ireland "most often expresses these concerns in applicable to all minorities, rather than particular ones."

This, he said, in many cases was at the request of “local Christian and other minority representatives. ” It was the case that “explicit messages of support from western countries only expose them further to the (unjust) accusation that their communities are somehow legacies of or agents for western intervention in the region,” he said.

He was responding to a letter from Senator Neale Richmond about the persecution of Christians in the Middle East and North Africa.


Mr Coveney noted how "in several countries, the breakdown of central government has led to polarisation and conflict between the major ethnic or religious groups, in which smaller minorities such as Christians, Yazidis, Turkmen and others have been left isolated and vulnerable, and subject to increasing persecution carried out by Da'esh, the so-called Islamic State.

"Persecution of the Baha'i community, particularly in Iran, has also been a long-running concern," he said.

Real protection

The Minister said “we believe the message is clear. In many cases real protection for minorities can only be ensured when effective governmental administration and control of the relevant areas is re-established.”

In a Dáil debate on the issue on April 16th last Mr Coveney said “we are seeing an increase in intolerance and persecution of minorities across the world. In some cases, the states involved feel that they almost have a licence to act as they do in the aftermath of the actions of other countries. We have seen an increase in the persecution of LGBT communities, for example, in a number of African countries.

"Yes, we have seen persecution of the Christian community in India. As I have stated, Ireland strongly condemns the targeting of religious minorities. Acts of violence and discrimination based on religion or belief committed in the name of religion or national security, whether by individual states or otherwise, must be challenged. I have asked my officials, including our embassy in New Delhi - Deputy Byrne mentioned India - to continue to monitor the situation in India in this regard and in co-operation with the EU. I also believe it would be appropriate to raise our concerns at the next meeting of the EU-India human rights dialogue."

He also pointed out that "under Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion." This included "the freedom to change one's religion or belief and the freedom, either alone or in community with others, to manifest one's religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance in public or private," he said.

Patsy McGarry

Patsy McGarry

Patsy McGarry is a contributor to The Irish Times