St George hailed as a human rights campaigner

By staff writers
April 24, 2008

The Patron Saint of England (and a number of other countries) has been hailed a human rights campaigner by fellow activist Peter Tatchell - who backs ideas that his national day should be a public holiday celebrating dissent.

"It is time we ditched the myths surrounding St George and celebrated the reality of his courageous life", said Tatchell - who is a prospective Green candidate in Oxford, and has gained widespread media attention for his direct action campaigns for Tibet, against Robert Mugabe, and for the LGBT group OutRage!

"St George's Day should be a national holiday in England. We should celebrate St George as a symbol of freedom, dissent and multiculturalism," says the human rights activist.

"He doesn't belong to the far right. He represents multiculturalism and rebellion against tyranny.St George wasn't white or English. He was a rebel from the Middle East. His father was Turkish and his mother probably Palestinian. He rebelled against the Roman Emperor Diocletian and was executed for opposing the persecution of Christians by the Romans."

"An early defender human rights, he is a heroic symbol of protest and the right to freedom of belief and expression."

"St George's parentage embodies [many nations] and his life expresses the values of English liberalism and dissent," said Mr Tatchell.

Catalonia, Portugal, Beirut, Moscow, Istanbul, Germany and Greece are among the numerous other principalities claiming a historical or mythological link with St George.

The idea of St George as dissident was proposed last year by the religion and society think-tank Ekklesia, whose report entitled When the Saints Go Marching Out: Redefining St George for a new era points out that the original story which dates from the 4th century CE told of St George offering hospitality to a refugee, defending the marginalised, and challenging the persecution policy of the Emperor.

This image has been distorted, and replaced by one of a dragon slayer who backs the crusades (religious wars), the report says.

A new painting of St George by highly regarded artist Scott Norwood Witts, which depicts the saint as a man of compassion rather than a crusader, has been unveiled at the Roman Catholic Cathedral of St George, Southwark, this week.

Although the views expressed in this article do not necessarily represent the views of Ekklesia, the article may reflect Ekklesia's values. If you use Ekklesia's news briefings please consider making a donation to sponsor Ekklesia's work here.