Faith Matters

Persecuted minorities need Irish support

A Palestinian boy stands barefoot, next to remains of a destroyed house in the town of Beit Hanoun, northern Gaza Strip on Monday. Bishop of Dromore John McAreavey is in the Holy Land this week to support the region's vulnerable Christians

BISHOP of Dromore John McAreavey is encouraging as many people as possible to read Pope Francis's World Day of Peace message, describing it is a call "to action for justice and peace".

Dr McAreavey, who chairs the Irish Catholic Bishops' Council for Justice and Peace, said families, groups in schools and colleges and even book clubs should read the message, entitled Overcome Indifference and Win Peace.

In reflecting on 2015, the Pope weighs up "devastating human tragedies, as well as inspiring examples of global leadership and commitment to the rights of the poor and the protection of the natural environment that supports and sustains us all", said Dr McAreavey.

"Pope Francis draws hope from the outpouring of generosity and solidarity towards those in need, notably the victims of violence and persecution," he said.

"At the same time, however, he repeats his concern about the 'globalisation of indifference', questioning whether the 'information explosion' that is so readily at our disposal today is leading to greater solidarity, or rather a numbing of our sensitivity to the suffering of others.

"We are reminded that we cannot afford to be complacent about the challenges to human dignity, most evident in the denial of basic rights: the right to life and the means necessary to live with dignity and participate in society."

The Catholic Church has embarked on a Jubilee Year of Mercy and in his message, Pope Francis emphasises the transformative power of mercy on relationships.

"As Christians, we are called to reflect the teaching and example of Scripture, reaching out in love and compassion to those who are marginalised or excluded," said Dr McAreavey.

"There is something for everyone to reflect on in this message of Pope Francis and I encourage it to be read in parishes by families, by book clubs, in schools and colleges so that it can inform discussion throughout the year, inspiring us to action for justice and peace in defence of the victims of violence, persecution and injustice throughout the world."

Dr McAreavey noted that Irish Christians had a particular duty to remember Christians elsewhere in the world facing persecution and those "who have lost everything for their faith".

"We urgently need a renewed international commitment to uphold the universal human right to freedom of conscience and religion to protect not only our Christian brothers and sisters, but all persecuted minorities," he said.

Meanwhile, Dr McAreavey this week began a 10-day visit to vulnerable Christian communities in the Holy Land, including in Gaza, Bethlehem and Jordan.

He is travelling as part of the Holy Land Coordination group, set up by the Vatican to support Christians in the region, with bishops from Europe, North America and South Africa.

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