Claims about UK 'Christian persecution'

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Commenting on the launch of 'Not Ashamed Day' and claims that Christians are facing systematic discrimination or persecution in the UK, Ekklesia co-director Jonathan Bartley said:

"Christians should not be ashamed of our faith, but nor should they be afraid to listen to others and learn from them. What they should be ashamed of, however, is the reputation that they are developing for exaggeration, misleading people and discriminating against others.

"Since 2005, when we first predicted the growth in claims of 'persecution', we have been closely examining individual cases and what lies behind them. We have found no evidence to back up the claim of the 'Not Ashamed' campaign that Christians as a group are being systematically marginalised in Britain. We have found consistent evidence, however, of some Christians misleading people and exaggerating what is really going on, as well as treating other Christians, those of other faith and those of no faith, in discriminatory ways."

His co-directorial colleague, Simon Barrow, added:

"While some lobby groups and former church leaders appear willing to accommodate to exaggerated or false claims about the status of Christians in Britain, many thousands of others (the majority, in fact) are not.

"For example, this week, the Methodist Church in Britain is rightfully turning our attention towards the 300 million Dalits (victims of caste-based discrimination) across the world. Meanwhile, a community group in Wirrall is replacing its annual Christmas Lights with a showing of a radical film about the life of Christ - made by a nonbeliever. Both actions show good judgement about the nature of persecution in our world, and a positive form of Christian engagement.

"On the other hand, using language that mixes up the inconveniences and challenges of living in a mixed society with the terror of living in a disintegrating or dictatorial one is something those involved in spreading the 'British Christians are persecuted' notion should most definitely be ashamed of.

"We need to be theologically clear amidst the siren voices of alarm. That Christians do not rule others in the way they once did, does not amount to 'persecution'. Instead, it is an invitation to rediscover patterns of church life in a plural society which show the heart of the Christian message to be about embracing others, not isolating ourselves; multiplying hope, not spreading fear; developing peaceableness, not resorting to aggression; and advancing compassion, rather than retreating into defensiveness."