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Members back motion calling for freedom of religious belief

Published: 6 Apr 2014 11:300 comments

ASSEMBLY members have backed a motion calling on Westminster to use its diplomatic influence to secure freedom of religious belief and worship throughout the world.

Arlene Foster.

The Democratic Unionist Party’s Arlene Foster, a Fermanagh-south Tyrone MLA, told the House last week that persecution against Christians “is taking place on a daily basis”.

Mrs. Foster said it was important that “a very strong message goes to our Government that the Assembly abhors the persecution of Christians in North Korea and right across the world.”

Earlier in the debate, Sinn Fein MLA for Fermanagh-south Tyrone, Mr. Sean Lynch, had asked party colleague Caitríona Ruane if she agreed with him that religion and political institutions “should be separate in society”.

“I absolutely agree with him,” Ms. Ruane told the House. “I said at the start that Sinn Fein is opposed to the death penalty, supports the motion and is opposed to what is happening to the 33 Christians in North Korea.”

“Given that we want freedom for all religions and that the DUP is standing up for religious belief, I await with great anticipation its condemnation of anti-Catholicism where it occurs,” she said, much to the annoyance of Mrs. Foster, who attempted to intervene.

“It is a pity that the Member keeps talking; she will have her time to speak,” said Ms. Ruane.

Responding to the comments by the Sinn Fein MLA, Mrs Foster told the House: “She did not see any irony at all in the fact that she told us all that Sinn Fein was against the death penalty, despite the fact that the IRA has meted out the death penalty on many, many occasions here in Northern Ireland without impunity in the dark of the night, shooting people in the back of the head.

“Apparently, that is okay, but she can lecture us on the Floor about being against the death penalty.”

Ms. Bronwyn McGahan of Sinn Fein told the House that she too supported the motion. “No one should be discriminated against on grounds of religion or conscience, and everyone should condemn behaviour, within our own communities or internationally, that discriminates against others. Religious freedom is a basic human right, and no one should be prosecuted for practising his or her religion. It is concerning that, in the 21st century, people are still being persecuted for their religious beliefs. I am also concerned that many countries have passed laws banning homosexuality,” said the Fermanagh-south Tyrone MLA.

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