Warsi urges Christians to be more confident

by
16 February 2012

by Madeleine Davies

Previous encounter: Pope Benedict XVI arrives with Baroness Warsi at a meeting of religious leaders in London, during the Pope's state visit to Britain in September 2010 AP

Previous encounter: Pope Benedict XVI arrives with Baroness Warsi at a meeting of religious leaders in London, during the Pope's state visit to Britai...

EUROPE needs to become more confident in its Christianity in the face of “militant secularisation”, Baron­ess Warsi has said.

In a speech delivered as part of the largest ever ministerial delegation from the UK to the Holy See, Lady Warsi warned on Wed­nesday of the increasing margin­al­isation of reli­gion, fuelled by a mis­guided belief that the country’s major­­ity religious herit­age must be erased to create equality for minority faiths.

The Conservative chairman cited objections to the displaying of signs of reli­gion in govern­ment buildings, and denial of state funding for faith schools, as evidence of a “suspicion of faith” in Europe, pro­­pounded by the “well-intentioned liberal élite” and the “anti-religionists” who “dine out on free-flowing media”.

“One of the most worrying aspects about this militant secularisation is that, at its core and in its instincts, it is deeply intolerant,” she said. “It dem­on­strates similar traits to totalitarian regimes: denying people the right to a religious identity, and failing to understand the relationship between religious loyalty and loyalty to the state.”

The correct response, she sug­gested, was a “confident affirmation of religion”. “The societies we are, the cultures we’ve created, the values we hold and the things we fight for stem from . . . cen­turies of Christianity. You cannot and should not erase these Christian foun­da­tions from the evolution of our nations any more than you can or should erase the spires from our land­scapes.”

She argued that the way to accom­modate others was to be “sure of who you are”, and suggested that it was the Established Church and Christian heritage that had created freedom for people of minority faiths. She said that it was the “strong Christianity” of the UK that had given her confidence in her own Muslim faith.

She also affirmed the place of faith at “the table in public life”, and expressed support for the part played by the bishops in the House of Lords in scrutinising legislation.

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Referring to the Epistle of James, she highlighted the many good works of faith communities across the world, including the many Roman Catholic schools that are “outper­form­ing other institutions”.

The delegation’s visit marks 30 years since full diplomatic relations were re-established between the UK and the Holy See, and reciprocates the Pope’s visit to the country in September 2010. Lady Warsi was accompanied by six other members of the cabinet, all of whom met the Pope on Wednesday.

The Archbishop of Westminster, the Most Revd Vincent Nichols, who accompanied the delegation, de­scribed it as a “historic visit”.

“It is a signal of the important and growing relationship between the British Government and the Holy See,” he said.

Baroness Warsi's speech can be read here

PROFESSOR Richard Dawkins, arguably the high priest of “anti-religionists” cited by Baroness Warsi, stoked the debate on secularisation this week when he suggested that most of the people in the UK who describe themselves as Christian “are not really Christians at all”.

An Ipsos MORI poll commis­sioned by the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science found that, while 54 per cent of the 2107 people surveyed described themselves as Christian, only 28 per cent said that the teaching of Chris­tianity was one of the reasons for their belief. Three-quarters (72 per cent) cited their christening or baptism. One in six (15 per cent) self-identifying Christians had never read the Bible outside a church service, and more than a third (37 per cent) had never, or almost never prayed when not in a church service.

“Despite the best efforts of church leaders and politicians to convince us that religion is still an important part of our national life, these results demonstrate that it is largely irrele­vant, even to those who still label them­selves Christian,” Professor Dawkins said.

Canon Giles Fraser, speaking on Radio 4 on Tuesday, said that it was not for Professor Dawkins to define who was and was not a Christian. “Just having a few silly little ques­tions to trip people up seems to be not a good way of trumping . . . people’s self-identification.”

Forty-four per cent of Christians in the poll agreed that Jesus was “the Son of God, the Saviour of mankind” — more than the 32 per cent who thought he was best described as a role-model.

“It is a signal of the important and growing relationship between the British Government and the Holy See,” he said.

Baroness Warsi's speech can be read here

PROFESSOR Richard Dawkins, arguably the high priest of “anti-religionists” cited by Baroness Warsi, stoked the debate on secularisation this week when he suggested that most of the people in the UK who describe themselves as Christian “are not really Christians at all”.

An Ipsos MORI poll commis­sioned by the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science found that, while 54 per cent of the 2107 people surveyed described themselves as Christian, only 28 per cent said that the teaching of Chris­tianity was one of the reasons for their belief. Three-quarters (72 per cent) cited their christening or baptism. One in six (15 per cent) self-identifying Christians had never read the Bible outside a church service, and more than a third (37 per cent) had never, or almost never prayed when not in a church service.

“Despite the best efforts of church leaders and politicians to convince us that religion is still an important part of our national life, these results demonstrate that it is largely irrele­vant, even to those who still label them­selves Christian,” Professor Dawkins said.

Canon Giles Fraser, speaking on Radio 4 on Tuesday, said that it was not for Professor Dawkins to define who was and was not a Christian. “Just having a few silly little ques­tions to trip people up seems to be not a good way of trumping . . . people’s self-identification.”

Forty-four per cent of Christians in the poll agreed that Jesus was “the Son of God, the Saviour of mankind” — more than the 32 per cent who thought he was best described as a role-model.

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