Religious view of Iran’s opposition
From Mr Hossein Abedini
Sir, — The Iranian regime is already using bogus national security charges to crackdown on ethnic and religious minorities, including Christians. It does not need evidence of “action against the present government”, as Mr John Clark argues in a letter (21 August) in response to the article “Iran’s Christians defy crackdowns” (Comment, 7 August) by Bishop Barry Morgan.
The People’s Mojahedin Organisation of Iran (PMOI/MEK) has a progressive view of Islam and rejects the regime’s reactionary interpretation. The PMOI is a constituent member of the National Council of Resistance (NCRI), but the council also includes representatives of Iran’s religious and ethnic minorities, including Christians.
The NCRI was in fact the first to warn about the serious threat of Islamic fundamentalism emanating from Iran in a book published by the chairman of NCRI Foreign Affairs Committee in mid-1990, when nobody else was paying attention to this threat. In addition, the book of Iranian martyrs compiled by the PMOI lists the names of two prominent Iranian bishops and Mehdi Dibaj, a Christian pastor, who were brutally murdered by the regime.
The NCRI seeks an end to the religious dictatorship, and promotes a free and democratic republic in Iran, thus reflecting the democratic aspirations of all the Iranian people, regardless of their religion or ethnicity. That is why it has always been popular and enjoys growing support in Iran, a trend publicly acknowledged by regime officials themselves.
Iran does not need more divisions and partisanship along sectarian, religious, or ethnic lines. It needs inclusion and unity, as envisaged in the ten-point democratic platform for the future of Iran represented by the NCRI President-elect, Mrs Maryam Rajavi. It states: “We are committed to the separation of Religion and State. Any form of discrimination against the followers of any religion and denomination will be prohibited.”
In her visits to various European capitals, Mrs Rajavi always takes time to visit churches and to speak to Christian leaders and bishops. She also did so when she visited Rome and the Vatican. Based on this conviction, Mrs Rajavi issues a message of solidarity with Iranian Christians each year on 24 December, emphasising the key message of the birth of Jesus Christ, which is that of peace, freedom, and brotherhood (maryam-rajavi.com/en).
The actual “reality on the ground” is the regime’s violent religious persecution and suppression. That is not merely a political issue, and it cannot simply be swept under the carpet. It is the universal issue of freedom and the inalienable rights enshrined in the UN Declaration of Human Rights which unites all Iranians regardless of religion, faith, or ethnicity. The NCRI is grateful to the Anglican bishops who support these inalienable rights of the Iranian people and invites the Church of England to do the same.
What truly puts Christians at risk is the continuation of the extremist regime in Iran. What truly puts Christians at risk is the silence and inaction of others, especially in the Church, with regard to the inhumane religious persecution that is gripping Iran. The effects of the decision to remain silent would be horrendous for the Christian community in that country. The Bible teaches us the opposite: “Open thy mouth, judge righteously, and plead the cause of the poor and needy” (Proverbs 31.9).
UK Office of the National Council of Resistance of Iran
83 Victoria Street
London SW1H 0HW
Jan Coggan line on the C of E has truth in it
From Mr Christopher Benson
Sir, — I disagree with the Revd Paul Hunt’s dismissal of Jan Coggan’s words in Thomas Hardy’s Far from the Madding Crowd, “There’s this to be said for the Church, a man can belong to the Church and bide in his cheerful old inn, and never trouble or worry his mind about doctrine at all” (Letters, 21 August).
Of course doctrine and theology are important — they provide us with the language to able to discuss our faith — but to make doctrine and “theological literacy” a litmus test, to determine who belongs and who doesn’t, is not to invite people into the Church but to keep them out, not at all the “recipe for growth” that your correspondent claims.
With Jan Coggan, it seems to me that belonging — to the community of those who seek to follow Jesus (who never asked his disciples to sign up to any doctrinal proposition to be accepted) — is actually at the heart of what it means to be a Christian, and should be at the heart of the Church’s mission.
Theology is a fascinating subject for many people, me included, but isn’t it enough to want to seek, worship, serve, and love God without the need to “trouble or worry . . . about doctrine at all”?
46 Thorndon Gardens
Surrey KT19 0QW
Parliament ought to review law on ‘best value’
From Mr Roger Pickett
Sir, — It was intriguing to note two broadly similar cases relating to the disposal of church property (News, 21 August): the sale of PCC property in Swaledale with Arkengarthdale, and the sale of glebe land by the Peterborough diocese. In each instance, third parties to the transactions are reported as seeking to overturn the decisions of the vendors, which they interpret as either displaying a disregard for local concerns or an abandonment of morality.
Quite clearly, these reports, sadly, demonstrate a widespread ignorance of the duties in trusteeship within charity law. Moreover, they echo the issues that have occurred time and time again over the past 30 to 40 years.
The objections expressed fall into two distinct categories: the need to maximise value under charity law, and the issue of land use. These basic objections arise quite frequently when people in a community, often in ignorance, feel that the Church is just greedy and out to achieve the best sale price at the expense of Christian witness, or perceive an abandonment of Christian morality.
Although the issue of best value may occasionally be overcome if one charity sells to another charity with overlapping objectives, it is, perhaps, time for a review of the way in which the Charities Act impinges upon value. Those voices raised against the actions of the church authorities in disposing of property would be much better raised to stimulate a wider national moral concern and debate. Maybe it is time to make use of the online opportunity to petition Parliament and the Government and generate a debate in the House of Commons with a view to nuancing the law over “best value”. This might be an appropriate way to seek to remove this familiar bone of contention.
As for land use, the remedy is already to hand for those who rise up to object to the sale of land for what is seen to be an inappropriate use; they have only to become proactive when local planning policies are being drafted and determined.
Carlton Manor, 4 Kilmister Court
Wragby, Market Rasen
Lincolnshire LN8 5AF
Response to a disaffected long-time Anglican
From Mr Roland Smith
Sir, — I am sure that all your readers will have been saddened to read the letter from Mrs Rosemary Bowden (Letters, 21 August) saying that her 74-year-old association with the C of E has come to an end, even though her faith is undimmed. But, while understanding some of her frustrations, may I, as one who has been a C of E member for 77 years, very respectfully suggest that she is in some ways mistaken?
The faith that we all proclaim in the Creed includes the statement that we believe in “one holy, catholic and apostolic church”. Sadly, there is not one Church. But all Christians are called to be members of a Church, and I hope that Mrs Bowden has left the C of E to become a member of the Roman Catholic Church, the Methodist Church, the United Reformed Church, or some other part of “the holy, catholic and apostolic church”, and not to try to practise her faith in isolation.
The Parish Share is one expression of our common church membership. Mrs Bowden’s suggestion that the C of E should have granted a “payment holiday”, like the banks and building societies, is a category error.
Payment of the Parish Share is not a legal obligation, like payments to the bank. Each parish makes its payments voluntarily (if sometimes under some moral pressure). It is not a matter of what Mrs Bowden calls “topping up the diocesan coffers”. Payments from better-off parishes (is Mrs Bowden’s parish one of these?) help to fund the provision of clergy in poorer parishes. The Parish Share also helps to fund things like clergy training which benefit all parishes. The things paid for through the Parish Share still have to paid for, lockdown or no lockdown. All of this is part of being the Body of Christ.
I do not know whether Mrs Bowden will read this letter, but I hope that she will reconsider her decision.
9-13 Byron Road
Worthing BN11 3HN
Rector incorrect about right to marry in church
From Emma Laughton
Sir, — Thank you for reporting on the challenges for wedding couples this year (Features, 21 August). I was disconcerted that the Revd Mark Hewerdine, Rector of St Chad’s. Ladybarn, in Manchester, stated incorrectly: “If a couple want to get married in their parish church, the usual requirement is that you should be a regular worshipper.”
In fact, single adults are legally entitled to get married (to a person of the opposite sex) in their parish church. You can also have a legally valid connection to get married in another parish, and one of several routes is regular worship. Divorced people may also be able to remarry. Sadly, too many people are unaware of their rights and hesitant to approach the Church; so it’s unfortunate to see misinformation coming from an incumbent in your pages.
Thankfully, you also quote Canon Sandra Millar: “You don’t have to be a regular person. You don’t have to get baptised.”
EMMA LAUGHTON (Reader)
Dolphin House, Dolphin Street
Colyton, Devon EX24 6NA
Support for the accused
From Sister Frances Dominica ASSP
Sir, — Greater support from the Church for victims of abuse is to be welcomed (News, 21 August). How long will it take for the Church to recognise the need of support for those wrongly accused of abuse, with the consequent loss of career, home, income, and reputation?
President of FACT (Falsely Accused Carers, Teachers and other professionals)
All Saints Sisters of the Poor
15A Magdalen Road
Oxford OX4 1RW