Faith and secularism

Faith and secularism

Ekklesia's new co-director, Symon Hill, who joined the team as an associate last year, has a busy weekend ahead of him, starting with a discussion on faith and secularism in London tomorrow.

He will be speaking at the 'Causes to Fight For' New Year Conference organised by the Fabian Society at Imperial College London on Saturday 16 January 2010. They are expecting 800 participants. Among the 50 contributors will be "a senior cabinet minister" (It turns out to be none less than PM Gordon Brown).

With his commitment to Christian nonviolence and background as media coordinator for Campaign Against Arms Trade, Symon will probably not actually be fighting, of course! His fellow panelists from 14.00-15.30 are Sadiq Khan MP, Ben Summerskill of Stonewall, Terry Sanderson (National Secular Society), Catherine Fieschi (director of Counterpoint, the British Council's think-tank and a visiting scholar at St Antony's College, Oxford) and Melehia Malik (barrister and Reader in Law at Kings' College, London).

Coincidentally, Ekklesia has just revised, updated and re-published its research briefing 'Reconsidering the secular', which has links to a substantial amount of material on the topic. And on 7 February I'll be speaking at the Leicester Secular Society on 'Which way for secularism', offering some perspectives from a forward-thinking (I hope!) Christian perspective.

This will become an even bigger issue in the coming months, and moving beyond denunciations and polarisations is vital. Karen Armstrong's comment is particularly apposite: “[If] people’s beliefs – secular or religious – make them belligerent, intolerant and unkind about other people’s [beliefs], they are not ‘skilful’. If, however, their convictions impel them to act compassionately and to honour the stranger, then they are good, helpful and sound.”

Meanwhile, Symon is also due to be on BBC Radio Ulster's 'Sunday Sequence' (US on tele-evangelist Pat Robertson's dismal remarks about the Haiti earthquake) and on BBC Radio Berkshire (Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg's comments on faith schools and PSE).

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