How faith can face the challenge of freedom

London, UK - February 24, 2009 Rather than resorting to fearful rhetoric about 'marginalisation' or 'persecution', Christians and people of faith in Britain have a real opportunity to contribute to the public good and to defend the civic freedoms upon which we all rely, says the religion and society think-tank Ekklesia.

Commenting ahead of the high profile Convention on Modern Liberty, at the Institute of Education in London and across the UK on Saturday 28 February 2009, Ekklesia co-director Simon Barrow said that the event "embodies the new kind of people-driven politics that can emerge as traditional political institutions waver under growing worldwide pressures, and as they are tempted to resort to authoritarian measures."

"Similar challenges face organisations based around religion and belief," he added. "Fundamental human rights have been supported from many religious quarters, but they have also been challenged or seen as a threat in others."

"There is a choice to be made," said Barrow. "Will faith groups turn in upon themselves, resort to aggressive popularism and shy away from sharing free public space with others? Or can they develop global understandings of citizenship and shared responsibility, rooted in their own specific traditions, which open doors and expose abuses of power?"

Ekklesia argues that a positive way forward is possible.

"We now live in a mixed belief society, rather than one dominated by institutional Christianity," says Simon Barrow. "That may question certain privileges which have existed before, but the removal of these need not be a threat. Rather it is an opportunity to rediscover a more authentic, liberating message and practice; one that has often been obscured or defaced by the collusion of official religion and governing authority."

What is vital, suggests Ekklesia, is that people of all faiths and none find a common agenda around defending the civil liberties that enable shared action and conversation in society.

"That is the opportunity the Convention on Modern Liberty demonstrates," says Barrow.

Ekklesia is backing the Convention, and facilitating a seminar on 'Faiths and Freedoms' that will include voices from a range of religious communities and perspectives.

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NOTES TO EDITORS

1. Ekklesia is a think-tank, founded in 2002, advocating transformative theological ideas in public life. More information is at: www.ekklesia.co.uk

2. Ekklesia is independent of all church denominations. It has been recognised as one of Britain's leading sources of information on religion and public life.

3. You can follow all Ekklesia's comments on Twitter here: http://twitter .com/EkklesiaComment

4. More details about the Convention on Modern Liberty can be found here: www.modernlibert y.net

5. Ekklesia's seminar at the Convention on 'Faiths and Freedoms' is at 11.45am on Saturday 28th February. Speakers will include: Keith Kahn-Harris (convenor of New Jewish Thought) Savitri Hensman (Equalities adviser, Christian commentator) and the Rev Vaughan Jones (CEO, Praxis) More information can be found here: http://tinyurl.com/c6xw u4

6. In 2006, a book written by Ekklesia co-director Jonathan Bartley tracked the growing belief amongst some sections of Christianity that Christians were being persecuted. Faith and Politics After Christendom explored the ideas behind it, and the reasons for it.