|Baroness Warsi gives a copy of the Holy Quran to the Pope|
Baroness Warsi today handed over a copy of the Koran and a gold-plated cube inscribed with references to Allah as personal gifts to the Pope.A report in London Evening Standard. Here
The Cabinet Office minister and chairman of the Conservative Party met Benedict XVI at the conclusion of a trip to the Vatican, also presenting him with a letter from David Cameron and a message from the Queen.
Baroness Warsi said the Pope thanked her for comments she made this week against secularism, adding "he said he was glad I was making the case for faith".
Hasan Suroor in The Hindu. Here
Baroness Warsi's Christianity remarks came amid an ill-tempered debate on the place of religion in public life sparked by a court ruling banning local councils from holding formal Christian prayers at the start of official meetings. The ruling followed a complaint from the National Secular Society and an atheist councillor who argued that members who were non-believers were being “indirectly discriminated against”, in breach of human rights laws.
The government moved swiftly to reverse the ban but by then all hell had broken loose with faith groups warning against “the rising tide of secular fundamentalism” and citing the case as another example of attempts to “silence” Christian voices in Britain. The secularists and atheists hit back as hysterically with familiar arguments about keeping religion out of public space. The Queen also waded in with a strong defence of the Church saying it had a “significant position” in British life.
The debate is still raging as I write this.
To put it in perspective, while Britain is a secular society in practice the British state is Christian with an established church headed by the Queen. The only religious figures with the right to sit in Parliament are Christian. As many as 26 Church of England bishops, known as Lords Spiritual, sit in the House of Lords and read prayers at the start of each daily meeting. Sittings in both Houses of Parliament begin with Christian prayers
Baroness Sayeeda Warsi in The Telegraph. Here
For me, one of the most worrying aspects about this militant secularisation is that at its core and in its instincts it is deeply intolerant. It demonstrates similar traits to totalitarian regimes – denying people the right to a religious identity because they were frightened of the concept of multiple identities.
That’s why in the 20th century, one of the first acts of totalitarian regimes was the targeting of organised religion.
Of course there is a crucial caveat to all of this. I am not calling for some kind of 21st century theocracy. Religious faith and its followers do not have the only answer. There will be times when politicians and faith leaders will disagree. What is more, secularism is not intrinsically damaging. My concern is when secularisation is pushed to an extreme, when it requires the complete removal of faith from the public sphere. So I am calling for a more open confidence in faith, where faith has a place at the table, though not an exclusive position.
When we look at the deep distrust between some communities today, there is no doubt that faith has a key role to play in bridging these divides. If people understand that accepting a person of another faith isn’t a threat to their own, they can unite in fighting bigotry and work together to create a more just world.
All the major religions ask their followers to stand up for their neighbours. Doing so doesn’t make you less of a Christian, less of a Jew, less of a Muslim – it makes you more of one.
Research carried out by for a secularist foundation has suggested that most of those who describe themselves as Christian in Britain have only a low level of belief and practice of the religion.A report in BBC Radio. Here
A poll carried out by Ipsos-Mori for the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science indicated that half of those in Britain who say they are Christian rarely go to church while nearly 60% do not read the Bible.