Christians have duty to witness to their faith, says Bishop Nazir-Ali

29 May 2008

by Bill Bowder

Christianity "central": Dr Michael Nazir-Ali PA

Christianity "central": Dr Michael Nazir-Ali PA

BRITAIN’s destiny depends on Christianity, the Bishop of Rochester, Dr Michael Nazir-Ali, said this week, in an article published the day after he responded to questions on a General Synod motion that has called for Christians to evangelise British Muslims.

The private member’s motion, by Paul Eddy, who is training for the priesthood, called on the Church to proclaim Christianity as the only route to ultimate salvation. Mr Eddy said he had been under pressure to withdraw his motion.

“What I have said to journalists regarding the Paul Eddy motion is that we need to respect people of all faiths and none,” Dr Nazir-Ali said on Tuesday. “In the context of our dialogue with them, it is our duty to witness to our faith and to call people to faith in Jesus Christ, whilst recognising that people of other faiths may have similar responsibilities.”

The Christian faith was the basis for welcoming people into the life of the nation, he said. “There cannot, however, be an honest conversation on the basis of fudge.”

On Wednesday, the Bishop helped launch a new magazine, Standpoint, in which he warned that the days of separating religion and public life were over.

“The Westphalian consensus is dead,” he wrote in his article, “A Christian Britain in a plural world?” He was referring to the 17th-century agreement that a country’s religion would not again be the grounds for going to war, and which ended the conflict in Europe between Roman Catholics and Protestants.

“We are now in a global context where we will not be able to escape the questions raised by faith for public life,” the article continues. If Britain was to be prevented from wandering too far from the path of its national destiny, then it needed to understand the central part that the Christian faith had played, and still played, in what it achieved.

“In a plural, multifaith, and multicultural situation, it can still provide the resources for both supporting and critiquing public life in this country,” the article says.

Christianity had once united England, and had created a “golden chain” of social harmony under God. That Christian consensus had dissolved, and left a moral and spiritual vacuum into which radical Islamism was moving.

“What resources do we have to face yet another ideological battle?” the Bishop asks. Only the restoration of Christian faith and discourse at the heart of the country’s common life was “robust” enough to re-establish the core British values of human dignity, equality, freedom, and a safe and peaceful society, he concludes.

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