There was an interesting programme broadcast by the BBC on Easter Sunday titled Are Christians Being Persecuted?. Presented by Nicky Campbell, the programme investigated recent cases which seem to suggest the marginalisation of the Christian faith in Britain. It also explored the extent to which multiculturalism and human rights had affected Christians in practical terms.
On the issue of human rights the documentary heard from witnesses who suggested that in the case of the registrar who had lost her job after refusing to marry gay couples due to her Christian beliefs, she had fallen foul of a growing trend that places the rights of one’s religious beliefs below those of one’s other rights, including one’s race, gender and sexuality.
Later in the programme Bishop Michael Nazir Ali was particularly scathing of multiculturalism, blaming the apologetic nature of Britain over the past sixty years for its creation. He said that immigrants coming to this country should have been welcomed on the basis of the Christian hospitality which Britain has adhered to for hundreds of years. However, because Christian discourse was being lost from the public sphere at precisely this time, multiculturalism was invented. The result, Bishop Ali argued, was a fragmented society where communities of different races and religions are increasingly isolated and this, he believes, can lead to extremism.
Interestingly, the example of the Oxford “Winter Lights”, where the council bowed to pressure from a group of leaders from different religions and reinstated the “Christmas Lights” celebration in the town centre, suggested a way forward from any divisions multiculturalism can create.The programme concluded that British Christians are not persecuted in a violent sense, but a minority believe that they are being sidelined and victimised. Interestingly, history has shown that in terms of growing the religion this is perhaps not such a bad thing. So despite, or perhaps because of this, what I think is important to bear in mind is that one should not be afraid to speak out for one’s belief. This can often be a difficult thing to do, but even if we are persecuted by being sidelined we are fortunate to live a society where the torture and killings endured by Christians in the Sudan and Pakistan are not a reality.