March 18 | comments icon 0 COMMENTS     print icon print

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Pray, prepare, donate and speak out this Lent

Scottish Catholic Observer editorial

They may move us, but often do not directly touch us. And then there are the tragedies that unite our global community in grief, such as the New Zealand and Japanese earthquakes and, in Japan, the resulting Tsunami that has been called the biggest disaster in the country since the Second World War.

It can be difficult to make sense of tragedy and disaster, to process the scale and the loss and to know, beyond prayer and donations, what can be done to overcome the sense of helplessness. Then there are times when the power to make a real difference is put within our grasp, such as the Lenten campaigns of Catholic charities.

Last week Susan Boyle helped SCIAF launch its Wee Box, Big Change appeal just ahead of its international affiliate Caritas promising help to Japan.

Now this week Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) has highlighted that 75 per cent of all religious persecution around the world is now directed against Christians.

Cardinal Keith O’Brien, speaking at the launch of the ACN report in Scotland, challenged the British Foreign Secretary for operating an ‘anti-Christian foreign policy’ after the UK Government announced plans to double overseas aid to Pakistan to more than £445 million, without requiring any commitment to religious freedom for Christians.

Earlier this month the only Christian in the Pakistani Government’s cabinet, Shahbaz Bhatti, was shot dead by gunmen in Islamabad. And while, on the surface, Christianity would appear to be better protected in the UK, recent direct attacks upon Christian values have prompted a strong response form the Catholic community at home.

Last Friday James Bogle, the chairman of the Catholic Union of Great Britain, wrote to Trevor Phillips, the chairman of the Equality and Human Rights Commission, asking the commission to defend religious liberty and protect the human rights and equality of religious minorities.

The letter came as a response to recent court cases that ruled against Christian values on fostering (the Johns case, in which a Christian couple were prevented from further fostering children because their Christian morality does not approve sex outside marriage) and in renting accommodation (the Bulls case when the Christian owners of a guesthouse, who restrict double rooms to married couples, have been ordered to pay £3600 in damages to a homosexual couple).

“Religious freedom does not simply mean the right to attend religious services and nothing more but must also involve the right not to be coerced in matters of religion and related issues of conscience,” Mr Phillips wrote.

“The Declaration of Religious Liberty of the Second Vatican Council identifies the right not to be coerced in matters of religion and calls it a right founded in the very nature of the human person.”

As we prepare and reflect during Lent, in addition to prayer and charitable giving, seizing the opportunity to speak out for and support what we believe in is an opportunity afforded to us that we must not waste. Others in our global Christian community are not so fortunate.

Pic: Paul McSherry

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