Let’s break out of our religious ghetto – by Edward Leigh MP

portrait-edwardleigh6I like to read foreign newspapers. It puts our own affairs into perspective. I was in Italy a few weeks ago, and was amused to see that apparently Silvio Berlusconi was the architect of global recovery. There was no mention of Gordon Brown.

When I buy French newspapers I find Nicolas Sarkozy is Bush’s right-hand man and Gordon figures nowhere. Recently I have been getting the International Herald Tribune every day. Needless to say, there is no mention of George Osborne’s travails. The truth is that he is a clever hard-working politician who is not (yet) in power. No story there. As for “yachtgate” – a guy who is in opposition receives no money from a Russian billionaire – the biggest non-story of all time!

I notice this week however in my Herald Tribune that the Queen of Spain has been criticised for an interview she gave. Apparently she was less than fulsome on gay rights. Immediately, the roof fell in and she has been caricatured as another embittered conservative Catholic. No mention here of all her sterling good work over many years.

I do think, though, that religious people need to be wary of being caught this way. The enemies of religion like to caricature believers as homophobes obsessed with divorce and abortion. We should not allow ourselves to be positioned this way. It is religious people who run AIDS centres; who care for the poor; who oppose wars.

But religious people need to break out of their ghetto and explain how religion can enlarge the mind, make it more, not less, tolerant, more aware of the needs of others. As important as some of these traditional issues are, there are many more important. For instance, our belief that wars – whether in Iraq or elsewhere – seldom solve anything.

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