Several faith leaders in Ireland are suggesting that the government is trying to criminalize Christianity after its health minister, Stephan Donnelly, signed a ban outlawing church services.
But it was more than just a ban, in the process, the Irish government made it a criminal offence for a church to hold in person services, with leaders and even those attending a service facing potential jail time of six months.
It is one thing to fine someone, but it is entirely a different matter to imprison them. Whether it was intentional or not, the government basically criminalized Christian activity.
In an interview with Premier Christian News, John Ahern, who pastors All Nations Church in Dublin, Ireland, said:
“This ongoing lockdown is indefensible. The government passed a law that criminalises religious gatherings so to either organise or to attend a religious service has now become a criminal offense in the Republic of Ireland, and for myself as a pastor the situation’s become untenable. I cannot in good conscience continue in this situation, knowing and seeing the damage that’s been done in people’s lives. I’ve made a decision that I’m going back to pastoring my people and so this Sunday, I’ve decided I’m going to meet in the Phoenix Park, there’s a beautiful 50 foot cross there and I suppose we’ll see what happens.
And it’s not just happening in Ireland, according to the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), countries around the world are taking advantage of the COVID crisis to crackdown and criminalize religious activity.
In its annual report, the agency reported that some governments have gone so far as to blame religious activity for the COVID outbreak.
John Moore, an evangelical Christians who serves on USCIRF, told CBN that Christians are facing a level of persecution that hasn’t been seen since the first century.
Moore told CBN:
“It’s time for Christians to do what the Apostle Paul called them to do which is to pray for those who are in prison as if they were there with them.”
He was actually quoting from Hebrews 13:3, where Paul wrote:
3 Continue to remember those in prison as if you were together with them in prison, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering. (NIV)
Not only was Paul encouraging us to pray for believers imprisoned for their faith, but he was also wanting more than just “God bless them” type of prayers.
He encourages us to put some emotion into our intercession, calling for us to actually identify with these believers in our minds, as if we are in prison with them, suffering as they are, because we are members of one body.
As reported previously, GraceLife Church in Alberta, Canada has gone underground, holding services at a secret location, after the RCMP barricaded the church’s rural property preventing people from attending services.
Its pastor, James Coates, had also been jailed for 35 days when he refused to sign an undertaking that he would not attend services. Essentially, his initial punishment, a fine of $1,500, was turned into a jail sentence.
READ: They have criminalised Christianity’: Faith leaders respond to the outlawing of religious services in Ireland AND USCIRF: COVID-19 used as ‘excuse’ in religious persecution globally AND 2021 Report Details Persecution of Biblical Proportions: ‘This Bomb Reverberates on Every Corner of the Globe’