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10/04/2021 Ireland (International Christian Concern) – In response to concerns over international religious freedom raised in the Irish parliament, Irish Minister of State at the Department Foreign Affairs Colm Brophy stated on September 23 that religious freedom is, “a priority for Ireland’s human rights engagement at both multilateral and bilateral levels.”

The recent dialogue in Ireland over international religious freedom was sparked by a series of arrests made in Eritrea. According to Release International, fifteen Christians were arrested in the African nation for their faith in mid-September. All fifteen had been previously imprisoned for their faith, most having served sentences between five to six years while some served up to sixteen years in prison. The Christians were rearrested after “the discovery of a list of Christian contacts,” according to Release, and were sent to the country’s maximum-security prison in Mai Serwa. This comes on the heels of the arrest of two elderly pastors from the Full Gospel Church of Eritrea back in July.

In late September, Peadar Tóibín, member of the Irish Parliament and leader of the Aontú Party, asked the Irish government what actions it “is taking to address the recent re-arrests of Christians in Eritrea… who were previously imprisoned in violation of their right to freedom of religion and belief; and if [there will be] a statement on the matter.”

Minister Brophy, responsible for foreign aid and development, did release a statement on the matter, stating that he was, “deeply concerned by the imprisonment of Christians in Eritrea on the basis of their religious belief.” Brody then emphasizing the position of the Irish government, saying, “The right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion (more commonly referred to as freedom of religion and belief) is regarded as a fundamental freedom… Ireland strongly condemns all forms of persecution on the basis of religion or belief, irrespective of where they occur or who the victims are.”

In response to the situation in Eritrea, Minister Brody explained how Ireland has made statements concerning Eritrea to the UN Human Rights Council twice this year and how Ireland is participating with EU sanctions on Eritrea for human rights violations. He then added, “My officials and Ireland’s Embassies in Nairobi… continue to monitor the human rights situation in Eritrea… closely, including the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion.”

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