The All-Party Parliamentary Group named Christians in Parliament has published a report titled Clearing the Ground, and subtitled it: Preliminary report into the freedom of Christians in the UK. It makes some recommendations as to how various conflicts around the rights and responsibilities of people of faith might be handled. There have beem claims recently that Christianity is being forced out of the public square in the UK and concerns that there is a rise of aggressive secularism which refuses to tolerate expressions of religious belief. We have had some cases quite rightly brought to law, but also others which seem trivial and vexatious - such as the plumber who was apparently sacked for having a palm cross on his dashboard.
I don't agree with everything in this report. For example, it seems to recommend that there should be a right for those of faith to refuse full access to goods and services. I can't see that having strong religious or moral views is a legitimate basis to discriminate against others in this way. I do agree with certain parts of the report though, and in particular I agree that all conflicts should be looked at on a case by case basis and that there should be a requirement for reasonable accommodation of religious belief - which I blogged about when the Equality Bill was passing through Parliament in 2009.
I was particularly struck by this line in the report and I am quite certain it is one that will not receive anything like enough attention,
"Too often the Church is defined by what it is opposed to rather than what it stands for. It is essential Christians provide hope and a vision for society that goes beyond defending their own interests and defends the good of all."
To let go of our animosity towards those we may think are our enemies, to empathetically see and feel life through the eyes of others, to place the needs of others over our own and to stand up for them to be treated justly is not easy. It is, however, the way we are called to behave if we profess to be Christian. We are not really called to transform the unjust structures of society for ourselves, we are called on to transform them for others.
That is always worth remembering.