The Church of Ireland has unanimously adopted a motion at its General Synod in Dublin expressing solidarity with persecuted Christians across the world.
Kilkenny rector the Rev Patrick Burke said people thought of the days of martyrdom as being in the early church but added that it occurred today and genocide was taking place today against Christians.
“Our lack of action against genocide in the past is a dark stain. We can do nothing about the past but we can do something about what is going on at the moment to help Christians,” he said.
The Bishop of Clogher the Rev John McDowell said that the Irish inter-church meeting this year would have its theme persecuted Christians.
Bishop of Down and Dromore the Rev Harold Miller said there was a need to recognise that they lived in a generation where many people were choosing to die for their faith in Jesus Christ and we should stand by them as we stand by other persecuted people.
The Dean of Ross, the Rev Christ Peters, said the issue really got to the heart of justice but was often just given lip service.
He said the statistics of persecution were horrific.
“As a Church we should be very concerned about this. While there might be very little we can do, we can at least pray,” he said.
Trevor Sargant, from Cashel, Ferns and Ossory diocese, said that the scale of the issue was important to know – 165,000 Christians were killed for their faith last year and there are currently 200 million being persecuted.
“While there was an enormous need to pray, people could do more than that and suggested organisations like Church in Chains which make it easy for people to do something practical including writing letters.”
Mr Burke said that it was a statistical fact that Christians are most likely to suffer persecution for their faith.
The Synod motion said Christians are among the most persecuted body of people on the planet and it expressed solidarity with “our brothers and sisters in Christ throughout the world who are persecuted for their faith and commits to supporting them in prayer”.
Meanwhile, the education debate at the Church of Ireland General Synod touched on the highly contested issue of academic selection of pupils in Northern Ireland.
It was stated that the parents of 15,000 children put their children forward for academic selection.
With no official policy on academic selection, the church’s education board in Northern Ireland is looking to clarify the issues surrounding selection and seek “justice in education for all pupils”.
“Children are made in the image of God and deserve dignity. Education is one of the ways in which children can be given dignity,” said one Synod speaker.
The three-day Synod ran from Thursday to Saturday in the Royal Marine Hotel, Dublin.
• A council set up to bring together the Church of Ireland and the Methodist Church in Ireland in communion is calling for greater interchangeability between clerics of the two denominations.
A report submitted to the Church of Ireland General Synod at the week-end said there had been symbolic moments in the relationship between the two churches, but there needed to be more substance in the progression of the links.
The synod adopted a report which suggested meetings of representatives of the Church of Ireland House of Bishops and senior Methodist leaders several times a year.
Belfast cleric the Rev Barry Forde, from Connor diocese, explained the aim was to develop strategic engagement and raise the visibility of the Covenant between the two churches.
Mr Forde pointed out: “Ecumenism will work from the ground up, but it is imperative that we do all we can to facilitate those who want to work together but who are often confused about how to make it happen.”.
• The General Synod encouraged congregations to celebrate the Covenant relationship on or around John Wesley Day on May 24 each year. The Rev John Wesley broke from the Anglican tradition in the mid-18trh century to form the Non-Conformist Methodist tradition.
• Church of Ireland Primate Archbishop Richard Clarke told his synod that a generation of children are growing up deprived of normal interaction with adults.
Dr Clarke said this was largely because of the child protection industry. While emphasising the need for strong child protection measures, he said children can see adults as “predators”.
“It is almost abusing children in a different way to deprive them of normal interactions with adults. The first thing is we have to protect children. We know what dreadful things happened when we did not protect children, so that is a given.
“Children know about the dangers of adults and adults are often scared that children might misunderstand interaction.”
However, Dr Clarke said children had learned almost as their default position to “mistrust every adult”. He said it may be safer, but asked: “Is it necessarily something that will increase healthy relationships between those of different generations?”