The Dáil is set to debate a full motion condemning the persecution of Christians in the Middle East, The Irish Catholic has learned.
Just weeks after the failure of politicians to include Christians in a motion attacking the treatment of Iraq’s Yazidi minority by so-called Islamic State (ISIS), an omission described as “outrageous” by Bishop John McAreavey, it has been confirmed to this newspaper that Fianna Fáil’s spokesperson on Foreign Affairs and Trade, Darragh O’Brien TD, will this week circulate a draft motion specific to Christian suffering.
“This is a matter of grave concern,” Deputy O’Brien said, “and we want to work with other parties so that the Dáil can speak with one voice in condemning the persecution of Christians in the Middle East.”
The deputy added that he and party colleagues are “very conscious that other nations such as the United States, Britain, and the European Union” have already adopted resolutions and motions condemning the genocide and continued suffering of Christians at the hands of religious extremists. “That makes it all the more urgent that we do this too,” he said.
While not seeking to overstate the impact a successful motion could have in tackling the excesses of groups like Islamic State against religious minorities, Deputy O’Brien nevertheless stressed that “this must be a priority for the Dáil”.
Deputy O’Brien explained that once feedback on the draft motion is received from party representatives, the process for a debate would be set in motion, hopefully seeing the subject of Christian persecution raised in the Dáil chamber in late January or early February.
The passage of a motion on behalf of Middle Eastern Christians would be a major step forward from the earlier motion on Yazidi suffering. Prompted by a meeting Deputy O’Brien and party colleagues had with a Yazidi woman who had endured sexual slavery at the hands of ISIS, the motion became the subject of lobbying by rural Independent TDs dissatisfied with its narrow scope in failing to highlight similar experiences meted out to Christians. In early December, TDs led by Mattie McGrath proposed an amendment that would highlight that, among other things, “Christians, Yazidi and other religious minorities in Iraq and Syria will be exterminated or forced to migrate solely for their religion by the Islamic State and other militant extremists”.
As the amendment was proposed, Bishop John McAreavey of Down & Connor called for an expression of “solidarity with Christian communities all across the world that are subjected to persecution and discrimination at so many levels”.
Word of the Dáil motion comes as new figures look set to confirm that Christians were the most persecuted faith group of 2016. Figures gathered by the Centre for Study of Global Christianity at the Massachusetts-based Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, reveal that over 90,000 Christians were killed for their faith in the past year – a rate of one every six minutes.