Encouraging people to commit to social justice, human dignity, equality, civic participation and peace-building is the way to create good citizens, says the religion and society think-tank Ekklesia, not attempts to impose symbols of state allegiance and inflated rhetoric about ‘national pride’.
The comments came in response to Lord Goldsmith’s suggestion, as part of the government’s review on British citizenship, that school pupils should pledge commitment to Queen and country as part of a new citizenship ceremony.
“Education for civic participation and reform of the constitutional system to encourage democratic accountability is a much more meaningful way of encouraging common purpose than questionable nationalistic gestures,” said Ekklesia co-director Simon Barrow.
“Making loyalty to the nation state our primary identity also raises deep questions for those who belong to communities shaped by global ethical commitments that go well beyond national or geographical attachments,” he added. ‘Good citizens have a wider vision than flag-waving.”
Barrow continued: “If you get children to swear an oath of allegiance to the Queen, you are also getting them to pledge allegiance to the Supreme Governor of an Established Church, the Church of England. This will be difficult for many secularists, humanists, free church Christians and those of different faith backgrounds.”
“If the government wants to promote citizenship it would be better to look at how we can work more effectively together to promote social justice, human dignity, equality, civic participation and peace-building,” says the think-tank.
“The disastrous war in Iraq, the growing gap between rich and poor, threats to civil liberties, fear of cultural difference, and growing hostility towards people seeking asylum in Britain send out messages about the kind of divisions that require far more than anthem-singing to overcome,” points out Simon Barrow.
Ekklesia says that, while the Church has often colluded with oppressive power historically, a right understanding of allegiance to the way of Christ – which is the primary loyalty for Christians – questions all attempts to limit human solidarity by means of race, gender, nationality and ideology.
See also: Which citizenship, whose kingdom?' - http://ekklesia.co.uk/node/6883
1. Ekklesia is a think-tank on religion and society, founded in 2002, which promotes transformative theological ideas in public life.
2. It was listed amongst the top 20 think-tanks in Britain in 2005, by the Independent newspaper. It has been profiled by London's Evening Standard and the Daily Telegraph, among others. Its work is widely referenced in the global media and by researchers and academics.
3. Ekklesia is independent of all church structures, and operates on a self-financing, not-for-profit basis through a range of associates. It has one of most visited religious websites in the UK, and raises over £250,000 annually for peace, justice and development work.