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Church of Ireland Notes from ‘The Irish Times’

Religious Persecution

A growth in extremism and increasing government control over religion in some regions are among the trends noted in the fourth edition of the Church in Chains Global Guide. The Guide aims to raise awareness in Ireland about the situation of persecuted Christians around the world by giving an overview of what is happening in 60 countries. It also seeks to motivate people to respond.

The Guide was launched recently by the Revd Trevor Sargent, Rector of Bunclody, who appealed to Christians not to ignore the plight of persecuted Christians but to ‘be a voice for those who cannot speak or seek justice the way we can’.

The Guide divides the countries into three colour coded categories – severe (where many or all Christians face persecution including imprisonment, torture, murder or violent mob attacks), significant (where some, but not all, Christians face arrest, attack or serious restrictions) and limited (where some churches or individual Christians face restrictions or discrimination).

David Turner, Director of Church in Chains, explained that the Guide documents how persecution of Christians is increasing right across the globe – from Latin America to some countries in Europe; from the Middle East to a growing number of countries in Sub–Saharan Africa; from the former Soviet states of Central Asia through the religiously diverse countries of South Asia to the communist–led countries in East Asia.

Researcher and writer with Church in Chains, Virginia Chipperfield, highlighted some trends that became apparent during the writing of the fourth edition of the Guide. One striking trend was the expansion in sub–Saharan Africa of militant groups affiliated to Islamic State.  Another was the increasing government control of religion, particularly evident in Central Asia and East Asia. China was typical of this where government restrictions are part of a campaign to control all religions.

Launching the Global Guide, Mr Sargent pointed out that Church in Chains organises a letter writing team to write to ambassadors, presidents and government officials. Every TD and Senator has been sent a copy of the Global Guide and they have been asked to sign a petition seeking the reversal of Pakistan’s blasphemy laws.

You can find out more about Church in Chains and the Global Guide at www.churchinchains.ie

Tomorrow (Sunday) being Easter Say the bishops, by tradition preach in their diocesan cathedrals while in the National Cathedral of St Patrick, in Dublin the preacher will be the Dean, Dr William Morton. BBC Radio Ulster’s Morning Service on Easter Day will be Choral Eucharist broadcast from St John’s, church, Malone. Belfast. The celebrant will be the rector, Canon Stephen Fielding, and the service will be broadcast on BBC Radio Ulster and BBC Radio Foyle at 10.15am.

The Church of Ireland Marriage Council is hosting The Marriage Course, a series of seven online sessions designed to help couples invest in their relationship and build a strong marriage. The course, which is free, gets underway on 20 April, and will run each Thursday evening from 7.30–9.30pm. There’s no counselling and no group discussion involved.

Nicky and Sila Lee, authors of The Marriage Book, developed The Marriage Course for couples looking for practical support to strengthen their relationship. The course is designed to help couples build strong foundations, learn to communicate more effectively and resolve differences well. The course will be hosted by the Revd Jonny Campbell–Smyth, Rector of Ballynure & Ballyeaston, and his wife Alison. Places may be booked via Eventbrite.

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