Thursday, 28 November 2019

Ceisteanna (70)

Seán Haughey

Ceist:

70. Deputy Seán Haughey asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the steps that have been taken at EU level to prevent the persecution of Christians worldwide; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [49582/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Foreign)

Ireland strongly condemns all forms of persecution on the basis of religion or belief, irrespective of where they occur or who the victims are. We are committed to promoting freedom of thought, conscience and religion, as well as the rights of persons belonging to religious minorities. This commitment to promoting freedom of religion or belief is reaffirmed in the Global Island: Ireland’s Foreign Policy for a Changing World.

Within the EU, Ireland works with partners to address the persecution of Christians and other religious minorities. The EU's policy in this area is led by the Guidelines on Freedom of Religion or Belief, which were adopted during our Presidency in 2013. The EU Action Plan for Human Rights and Democracy 2015-2019 also includes an express reference to the promotion of freedom of religion or belief, and we will continue to work to ensure that these issues are addressed within the framework of the EU’s external human rights policy.

The EU consistently raises concerns about violations of freedom of religion or belief in the course of political dialogues with partner countries, including human rights dialogues and consultations. The EU continues to be a strong advocate for Freedom of Religion or Belief in UN Multilateral fora, including at the Human Rights Council and the UN General Assembly as well as in other international organisations including the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and the Council of Europe. Most recently, the EU successfully tabled resolutions on freedom of religion or belief at the 40th session of the Human Rights Council in March 2019 and the 74th session of the UN General Assembly Third Committee in November 2019. Ireland co-sponsored both initiatives.

 In May 2016, the European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker created the function of the Special Envoy for the promotion of freedom of religion or belief outside the EU, and appointed Ján Figel to the role. The Special Envoy has completed 16 official country visits since October 2016, during which he has met with government officials, civil society and human rights defenders.

 Finally the EU is providing financial support of over €5m in the period 2018-2022 to three interfaith projects in the Middle East and Africa which aim to enhance cultural pluralism and intercultural understanding related to religion or belief. It has also increased its support to civil society projects on freedom of religion or belief under the European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights up to €5.18m.