Religious freedom is at heart of human rights: Bishop John Buckley 

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Dec 3, Dublin: A leading member of the Irish hierarchy has called for an end to the persecution of Christians in the Middle East, saying religious freedom is at the heart of human rights. Dr John Buckley, Bishop of Cork and Ross, said that people are being killed and persecuted in too many countries around the World for their religious beliefs and this only represented a perversion of what religion stands for.
Speaking at the New Year’s Day Mass for World Peace in the Church of St Francis in Cork, Dr Buckley noted the persecutions being inflicted on Christians in the Middle East and in particular in Iraq and Syria where civil wars continue to rage.Pope Francis delivers the Urbi et Orbi (to the city and the World) message from the balcony overlooking St Peter’s Square at the Vatican, December 25, 2014. Photograph: Alessandro Bianchi/ReutersPope condemns Islamic State ‘brutal persecution’.

Pope Francis and other senior Christian and Muslim clerics have urged members of the ancient Christian communities of the Middle East to stay on in the region despite conflict and discrimination. Photograph: Reuters/Osservatore RomanoChurch leaders urge Christians to stay in Middle East
Christian children take part in a demonstration commemorating Assyrian Martyr Day in Beirut’s Fanar district. Photograph: Maya Hautefeuille/AFP/Getty ImagesChristians most persecuted and discriminated against worldwide
He 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.
“We have all seen the horrific scenes of violence and persecution on television and the dreadful images of executions perpetrated by Isis. Religious freedom is at the heart of human rights,” said Dr Buckley.
“Today, in too many countries, people are being killed and persecuted for their religious beliefs. Turning to violence in the name of religion is a perversion of everything that a religion stands for. No one can be compelled to accept a particular religion.”
Dr Buckley pointed out that Pope Francis had repeatedly asked Christians not to turn away from the suffering of their fellow human beings who are persecuted on account of their faith and he recalled a meeting he had recently with the Bishop of Aleppo from Syria.
“He told a gathering, during a 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.”
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 and he said that that Jesus’s exhortation to Saint Peter to “put up your sword” offered hope for humankind.

This Article first Appeared in The Irish Times

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