News Roundup

 At least 14 killed in attack on Burkina Faso church

At least 14 people were killed in eastern Burkina Faso on Sunday morning, the government there said.

The identity of the gunmen was not immediately clear and further details on the attack had yet to emerge. Burkinabe armed forces were caring for the wounded and searching the area, the government said in a statement.

This year an Islamist insurgency has ignited ethnic and religious tensions in Burkina Faso, rendering large parts of the country ungovernable, especially in northern areas bordering restive Mali.

On Nov. 6 gunmen opened fire on a convoy of buses carrying mine workers in the Est region, killing 39.

The timing of the latest incident, during hours of worship, mirrored other attacks on Christians this year — a new phenomenon in a West African country that has long prided itself on its religious tolerance.


Violence during consensual sex becoming normalised, UK research finds

Violence during consensual sex has become normalised, campaigners have warned. They said: “This is likely to be due to the widespread availability, normalisation and use of extreme pornography.”

It comes after more than a third of UK women under the age of 40 said in a survey that they have experienced unwanted slapping, choking, gagging or spitting during consensual sex.

Of the women who had experienced any of these acts, wanted or otherwise, 20% said they had been left upset or frightened.

The Centre for Women’s Justice told the BBC the figures showed the “growing pressure on young women to consent to violent, dangerous and demeaning acts”.

Steven Pope, a psychotherapist specialising in sex and relationships, told 5 Live that he deals with the negative impact of the rise of acts of these kinds “day in, day out”.

“It’s a silent epidemic. People do it because they think it’s the norm but it can be very harmful. What we see is that for many, it devalues the relationship but – at its worst – violence becomes acceptable.”


Cervical-check campaigner backs legalising euthanasia

Euthanasia should be legalised according to well-known CervicalCheck campaigner Vicky Phelan. She told the Irish Mail on Sunday she would avail of it herself if it were available in the State, although if it were not, she wouldn’t travel abroad to avail of it in case it got any of her family into legal difficulties.

In a candid interview she said she would be “pro euthanasia, definitely”.

“I would hate to be in position where I was in a lot of pain or lingering, as can happen a lot, that people are waiting for four or five days for somebody to die. It’s terrible for the patient. It’s terrible for the family having to sit and watch their loved one. It’s not a nice sight to see people when they’re dying,” she said.

“I think when you’re time has come – especially when you’re at a point, particularly like this with terminal cancer, and you’re in the last week or two of your life and you know there’s no coming back – why don’t they just put you out of your misery? If it was legal in this country I’d be doing it, I can tell you”.

In countries such as Belgium and the Netherlands, the grounds for assisted suicide have broadened far beyond cases of terminal illness.


‘80% of religious persecution is against Christians’ says Archbishop Eamon Martin

Eighty per cent of all acts of religious persecution around the world today are being committed against Christians, Archbishop Eamon Martin said, responding to a new report from Aid to the Church in Need Ireland.

He was speaking at a special prayer service at Armagh Cathedral to remember those who have died for their faith.  The event marked Red Wednesday, the highpoint of a special ‘Week of Witness’ that invites Christians across Ireland to stand in solidarity with persecuted Christians and other people of faith across the world.

Archbishop Martin said the 2019 Aid to the Church in Need Report ‘Persecuted and Forgotten’ “shockingly reminds us that martyrdom is not just a phenomenon of the past but continues, and is even increasing, in today’s world”. He continued: “Eighty per cent of all acts of religious persecution around the world today are being committed against Christians; 245 million Christians in more than 95 countries are facing extreme persecution for their faith.  We remember them all in prayer at this time”.


Taoisech puts faith in Citizens’ Assembly to end ‘gender pay gap’

The Taoiseach has touted the upcoming Citizens’ Assembly on gender inequality as a means to end all discrimination against girls and women, including the gender pay gap.

Mr Varadkar was speaking at a conference on equality in the workplace as part of #WorkEqual, an annual campaign run by the Dress for Success Dublin (DFSD) charity.

Mr Varadkar said the Assembly will specifically examine pay inequalities across the economy because “all too often” women are disproportionately represented in the low-pay sectors.

“I also want it to challenge the remaining barriers and social norms and attitudes that facilitate gender discrimination towards girls and boys, women and men,” he added.

Sweden which has universal, affordable childcare has about the same gender pay gap as Ireland.


Government to ‘explore’ including LGBTI+ studies on school curriculum

A new Government strategy intends to “explore opportunities” for the inclusion of LGBTI+ lives in primary and secondary cycle curriculum as part of the review into content being taught.

The strategy also plans to include LGBTI+ matters in the review of relationship and sexual education curriculum.

National LGBTI+ Inclusion Strategy, launched by Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Katherine Zappone and Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan on Thursday, contains over 100 actions which are aimed at promoting inclusion, protecting rights and improving the quality of life and wellbeing of LGBTI+ people.


‘Red Wednesday’ events mark Christian persecution

Over 120 major churches and other buildings in Ireland and the UK were lit up in red yesterday, ‘Red Wednesday’. to call attention to the persecution of Christians worldwide. The event was part of the ‘Week of Witness’ organised by the Catholic charity ‘Aid to the Church in Need’. Here in Ireland, the bi-annual report detailing attacks on Christians, ‘Persecuted and Forgotten’ was launched on Monday in University Church, Dublin.

In Armagh, Archbishop Eamon Martin led a ‘Liturgy of Witness’, in Saint Patrick’s Cathedral for Red Wednesday.  In a statement he said the ‘Week of Witness’ is an invitation to Christians across the island of Ireland to stand in solidarity with, and bear witness to, the heroic example of persecuted Christians across the world.

Archbishop Eamon said many churches and public buildings in Ireland and Britain “are being lit up in red this week, and people are encouraged to wear a red item of clothing to help shine a light on the reality of Christian persecution across the world, and to highlight the injustices perpetrated against other minority and faith groups”.

He added: “On this #RedWednesday I invite you to pray for the gift of courage, the grace of witness and loyalty to Christ for Christians all over the world and especially for those who continue to be challenged, attacked, displaced or even murdered for what they believe in.”


TDs ‘disappointed’ as no budget allocation for free contraception in 2020

There was no money allocated in Budget 2020 for a free contraception scheme, the Joint Committee on Health heard yesterday. The programme is not likely to be rolled out until 2021 even though Minister for Health Simon Harris hoped to introduce the programme this year. The committee discussed the Report of the Working Group on Access to Contraception.

A recent report commissioned by Mr Harris questioned the value of free contraception which would cost the State up to €100 million annually and could be spent on other measures.

Independent Senator Collette Kelleher who was nominated by the Taoiseach said she was incredibly disappointed with the report, which she said moved away from its remit, and began to focus primarily on the cost issue.

“We need to get to back to principles, which is that contraception is fundamental to women, exercising their reproductive rights, throughout their lives, and it’s fundamental for the prevention of unwanted pregnancies.”

Fianna Fail’s Stephen Donnelly said the lack of funding was very disappointing. “I think many people in here support the idea that if abortion services are going to do it for free, then you must, of course, provide contraception for free,” he said.


Top European Court stops deportation of Christian convert

An Afghani Christian who was a convert to Islam has won his fight against deportation from Switzerland back to Afghanistan. He won his case at the European Court of Human Rights. In his country, conversion from Islam to another religion is illegal “apostasy” with punishments ranging from lengthy imprisonment to death.

“Today, the Judges of the Strasbourg Court held that the applicant (identified only as ‘A.A.’) would be compelled to conceal their Christian faith and would in effect ‘be forced to live a lie’ if deported to Afghanistan by the Swiss authorities. The Court was critical of the Swiss authorities and their failure to properly conduct an assessment of the risks and consequences of deporting a Christian convert to Afghanistan. It concluded that this was in breach of Switzerland’s obligations to protect individuals from torture under the European Convention of Human Rights,” said Lorcán Price, Legal Counsel for ADF International in Strasbourg.


Primary school cancels prayers after atheist complaint

A primary school run by a Church of England trust has cancelled prayers at its daily assembly after a complaint from atheist parents.

The Daily Telegraph reports that “Lee Harris and his wife Lizanne bought a judicial review against Oxford Diocesan Schools Trust (ODST) after arguing that Burford Primary School is acting ‘unlawfully’.”

Burford Primary had been founded as non-religious ‘community’ school and in 2015 the ODST took over its running.

The ODST indicated that the cancelling of daily prayers is not long-term and will end once the couple’s child leaves the school.