Ian Paisley accused of 'double standards' over failure to condemn Christian persecution in the Maldives and Sri Lanka
IAN Paisley has been accused of "double standards" over holidays in two countries whose records on the treatment of Christians rank among the worst in the world.
It has emerged that between two luxury family trips to the Maldives, the North Antrim MP highlighted the persecution of Christians in Nigeria but did not publicly condemn the actions of his hosts.
Mr Paisley's overseas trips are again at the centre of a controversy after BBC's Spotlight programme alleged that a holiday he took with his family in 2016 was paid for by a member of the Maldivian government.
Spotlight also unearthed details of a previous holiday in 2014.
The DUP MP has previously argued against economic sanctions being taken against the Maldives over alleged human rights abuses.
The Maldives and Sri Lanka, holiday destinations for Mr Paisley and his family on at least four occasions over recent years, rank at 14th and 46th respectively on the Open Doors 'Watch List', a rundown of the 50 countries "where Christians face the most extreme persecution"
The international campaign group said a few thousand Christians live the Islamic-majority Maldives, but "must keep their faith completely secret, making it hard to know how many there are".
In its assessment of Sri Lanka, the group said Christians from "more historical churches enjoy a little more freedom" in the majority Buddhist country but that converts are "treated as second-class citizens and can face slander and attacks".
Mr Paisley and his party colleagues are vocal supporters of Open Doors and regularly attend the group's events at Westminster.
Alliance MLA Stewart Dickson said his party leader Naomi Long was vice-chair of Westminster's All-Party Parliamentary Group on Religious Freedom and worked with charities tackling religious persecution, including that of Christians in the Maldives and Sri Lanka.
"It jars with me that someone like Ian Paisley, who is clearly aware of the situation in these countries, the work Open Doors does and who professes to be Christian, chooses holidays there – it is double standards at best, sheer hypocrisy at worst," he said.
Mr Paisley was unavailable yesterday but in January he told The Irish News: “It is possible to understand and encourage political and economic developments in foreign countries and at the same time object to the treatment of minority faith groups there.”
The Irish News contacted Open Doors' Belfast office to talk about the Maldives and Mr Paisley's support for the group but it declined to put a spokesperson forward, saying there was a "security risk" for Christians in the Maldives.
Meanwhile, one of Mr Paisley's most steadfast supporters has rallied behind the North Antrim MP in the wake of the latest Spotlight allegations.
Ballymoney councillor John Finlay described Mr Paisley as an "excellent public representative".
“Once again, he has come under the media and political spotlight as a result of the latest Spotlight documentary produced by the Biased Broadcasting Corporation and the usual suspects are lining up to condemn him," he said.