The Archbishop of Canterbury, as he prepares to leave Lambeth Palace, has sought to quell any claims that Christians in this country are suffering persecution. “We have been hearing quite a lot about the dangers of ‘aggressive secularism’,” he wrote in the introduction to his new book, “But our problem ”¦ is not simply loud voices attacking faith (and certainly not ‘persecution’, as some of the more highly coloured apologetic claims)”.
Well, “persecution” is a powerful word, and few would dispute that genuine persecution is happening to Christian minorities in other countries, a plight that Dr Williams has done much to publicise. It seems ludicrous to compare the appalling treatment of the Christian minority in Pakistan or Iraq to slights suffered by Christians in Britain, where Christianity remains the Establishment religion, albeit one with weakening links to the Establishment.
There is, however, something curious and faintly unpleasant happening in Britain: Christianity seems tacitly understood to be the one faith that can safely be ridiculed or denied expression in the workplace. The complexity of that situation has been highlighted by the four British Christians who last week took their cases to the European Court of Human Rights on the grounds that they have been discriminated against at work because of their religion.