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Home Office hears from Christians

21 November 2007

by Rachel Harden

CULTURE and religion cannot be separated, the Bishop of Guildford, the Rt Revd Christopher Hill, said this week. To do so shows a “Philistine” lack of understanding, he argued.

Speaking on Monday at the launch of the Home Office “Christianity Awareness Week”, Bishop Hill described how culture and the scriptures of Christian and other faith communities are in an “ever moving and changing embrace”.

The awareness week, the first of its kind, was scheduled to coincide with the Church’s national Prisoners’ Week (18-24 November), which is supported by the Home Office and the newly created Ministry of Justice.

Bishop Hill said that to detach religion and culture anywhere, least of all in Britain, “betrays not only an ignorance of religion — and specifically our native, plural forms of Christianity — but also tellingly betrays an almost Philistine lack of understanding of culture”.

Bishop Hill drew on examples from art, literature, the environment, and church history.

Speaking after the launch, Mike Carson of the Home Office Christian Fellowship said that the awareness week was a way of challenging colleagues from all faith communities to work together. He said that Christianity was not being promoted above other religions; instead, the initiative was a way of saying: “We are here. This is what is going on.” This, he said, was already being done by members other faiths working in government.

“We felt that, just as other faiths promote themselves, we needed to. Gone are the days when people just accept and understand Christianity.”

 Various speakers have been invited to the Home Office during the week, including prisons leaders and chaplains, and community workers, including Simon Allen of the Jericho Road project for rough sleepers, and homeless and disadvantaged people in the borough of Lewisham.

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