Thinking Anglicans

Religious Festivals and Celebrations

Jonathan Petre has a report in the Telegraph Leave Christmas alone, say Muslims.

The statement reported comes from the Christian Muslim Forum whose website, which is in English, Arabic, and Urdu, carries the full text of the statement only as a PDF; it is reproduced below the fold here.

Religious Festivals and Celebrations

We have faced various calls over the past few years for the secularisation or de-Christianisation of certain religious festivals. In particular, certain local authorities have decided that Christmas shall be called by another (non-religious) name. The reason usually given is that to use a specifically Christian name for this festival offends members of other religious traditions.

As Muslims and Christians together we are wholeheartedly committed to the retention of specific religious recognition for Christian festivals. Christmas is a celebration of the birth of Jesus and we wish this significant part of the Christian heritage of this country to remain an acknowledged part of national life. The desire to secularize religious festivals is in itself offensive to both of our communities. We believe that the only beneficiaries of eroding the residual Christian presence in public life are those committed to a totally non-religious standpoint. We value the presence of clear institutional markers within society which embody the reality and mystery of God in public life rather than evacuating the public space of any such reminder.

We believe that our open and democratic society should promote freedom of religion in the public space rather than negatively restrict its observance. We welcome, for instance the public recognition of Eid al Fitr, as Muslims celebrate together at the conclusion of the month of Ramadan. We value the partnership evident in some local communities which gives opportunity for others to share with Muslims at this time of celebration. This is a positive way of affirming the public contribution that people of different religious traditions bring to our society. We believe that any attempt to privatise and hide the celebration of religious festivals promotes frustration, alienation and even anger within religious communities. Such negative approaches devalue religion and undermine the positive contributions that faith communities bring to society.

We also rejoice in the contribution and value of all religious communities in our country – Jewish, Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist and others. It is important for the integrity of all religious traditions that we recognise the centrality of major festivals within each community. In our increasingly diverse society we need to foster a mature and healthy approach to religious diversity which both recognizes the specific Christian heritage of this country and welcomes the important part that other religious traditions increasingly play within our culture. This demands a greater religious understanding on the part of government and local authorities than has been evident or necessary in the past.

We are thankful for those policies and actions which are responding helpfully to our changing religious environment. On the other hand we are concerned that those approaches which are based on anti-religious philosophies or a fear of religion are in danger of causing alienation in a wide variety of communities and fanning the growth of extremism. Those who use the fact of religious pluralism as an excuse to de-Christianise British society unthinkingly become recruiting agents for the extreme right. They provoke antagonism towards Muslims and others by foisting on them an anti-Christian agenda which they do not hold.

Human beings require occasions for festival and celebration and, for many in our society, these opportunities are fundamentally religious and spiritual in nature as we mark the high points in our different traditions. We call on all with responsibility in national and local government to give space and encouragement to an open and welcoming space for religious festivals as part of a positive contribution to community cohesion.

Released by Bishop David Gillett, Chair of the national Christian Muslim Forum and Dr Ataullah Siddiqui, Vice Chair of the Forum.

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Keith Kimber
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Keith Kimber

I’m amazed a joint statement of this kind has taken so long to make it into the public realm, when the process of eroding and marginalising the Christian dimension of our culture has been steadily going on for the past 15-20 years to my recollection. So, did I do enough back then? Our history is already being re-written, new ‘facts on the ground’ created, as Zionists say about Palestine. Polly Toynbee on Radio Four yesterday complained about the one third of our state schools ‘taken over’ by Christians, with complete disregard for history of education in Britain, without contradiction or… Read more »

DaveW
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DaveW

Dear Keith,
Too slowly I suggest.
Though if there is a feeling that Christians have ‘taken over’ then there must be some effective work going on.

Ford Elms
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Ford Elms

There are two festivals going on around that time. One is Christmas, beginning Dec. 25 and continuing to Jan.6. The other is Xmas, which starts around, or this year just before, American Thanksgiving and goes on till Dec. 26. One is religious, the other is totally commercial. The fact that the commercial holiday was born out of the religious one confuses us. The easiest thing to do would be to go back to the Julian Calendar and keep Christmas on Jan 6. That way, the secular world would be able to have its Xmas, we could have our Christmas, and… Read more »

Cynthia
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Cynthia

“The easiest thing to do would be to go back to the Julian Calendar and keep Christmas on Jan 6.” In parts of the Southern mountain country, January 6th was called “Old Christmas,” and was celebrated as well as the December 25th date – in some places, I am told, instead of. Thi shows up on one of Lee Smith’s fine novels, Fair and Tender Ladies [I think]. Commendable as it would be to separate the commercial from the sacred, I don’t think it’s gonna happen. It’s like Halloween, which in the US used to be a time for kids… Read more »

Dave
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Dave

Dear Keith

I wonder whether PT might have just been subconsciously thinking that she wants people like her to “take over”!

I think that too many “opinion formers” feel shocked whenever they find anyone they disapprove of still being allowed to be involved in civil society… in any way other than as an interesting oddity!

laurence
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laurence

Na. There is no ‘secularist crusade’ going on. The practice of Christianity as an institutional religion has declined, if statistics around births, marriages, deaths, confirmations, ordinations, and ordinary Sunday Worship; and keeping of Festivals is anything to go by. This has not been the result of a ‘campaign’ on the part of anyone, it must be reiterated. But this has been an apparently natural process, which historians, sociologists in general, and sociologists of religion, have correlated with industrialisation in western society and concomitant developments and changes in the structures of society in general, & family life in particular. Although I… Read more »

laurence
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laurence

I think that for me, perhaps the worse aspect is the failure implicitly to respect and welcome other people and THEIR wisdom, viewpoint and sensibility. This has meant that many individual Christians and Church bodies failed to engage in conversations, relationships and collaboration in local communities and various other contexts. Obviously there have been wonderful exceptions to this. We can all probably think of a vicar who engaged with the local community and helped to enable its growth and development. Some built community and others got buildings adapted or new build for use by the whole community in creative ways… Read more »

laurence
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laurence

Further signs of a campaign of secularisation–or –is it a campaign of creeping ‘sacralisation’ ? :— Elton John fears gay marriage future in Canada Elton John fears gay marriage will be banned in his partner David Furnish’s native Canada, by new less-liberal prime minister Stephen Harper. John – who married Furnish in a same-sex civil union last year – expressed his concerns at a concert in Toronto last week. Referring to Conservative Harper’s replacement of Liberal party leader and former prime minister Paul Martin, the singer said: “It would be such a shame because Canada is such a needed voice… Read more »

DaveW
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DaveW

Dear laurence,

Except that Sir Elton John didnt marry Furnish.. civil partnerships arent recognised as marriage in secular law and not in Christianity either or in most other religions I can think of.
So his fears are unfounded

Alan Harrison
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Alan Harrison

A fascinating conversation! Journalists of conservtaive and liberal leanings alike grasping the wrong end of the stick…. The “Winterval” myth seems to go on and on. The local authority in question was Birmingham. “Winterval” was a one-off commercial venture when Eid, Diwali, Chanukah and Christmas all happened to fall very close together. The right-wing press then went off chasing a “council bans Christmas” hare, cheerfully ignoring minor inconveniences like the bus-sized illuminated “Merry Christmas” signs strung up in places like the junction of New Street and Corporation Street and the front of the Council House. As an earlier contributor has… Read more »

Pluralist
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Take some points: >Those who use the fact of religious pluralism as an excuse to de-Christianise British society unthinkingly become recruiting agents for the extreme right.We also rejoice in the contribution and value of all religious communities in our country – Jewish, Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist and others.< This apparently excludes humanism. I rejoice in pluralism, but what is the virtue in religions as such functioning, when say Buddhism is atheist in character, or Sikhism criticises Islam facing Makkah, or the Hindus are polytheistic and are full of idols which is criticised by Islam? Why is there this need to keep… Read more »

Göran Koch-Swahne
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In short the increasing and self willed isolation of church Organizations during the 20th century.

We – they.

Combined with attitudinal problems on the individual level.

I – they.

DaveW
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DaveW

Sorry please just remind me what pluralism is. Does pluralism require pluralism, or can it appreciate the individual parts of the diversity it recognises? I see no cultural fear as practised by Bishop Nazir-Ali, but surely a pluralist would acknowlege the parts the make up the plural as valid in there own right. Christian and other worldviews have opposing differences, if pluralism dislikes these differences its not fully plural.
As a Christian and not a pluralist I would like to see a Christian worldview adoptred by this country… is pluralism opposed to that?

Pluralist
Guest

It is not a question of what I would like, but what there is and how to deal with it. As it happens, religion often responds to privilege and power with a turn towards authoritarianism, so it does it well not to be in an ascendant position, a religion that arguably has its strongest message when not very strong. Pluralism is not the agreement with other groups, it is a recognition of their reality, a willingness to engage with them and a social space that includes them. I have said about my position as being we who wants to include… Read more »

Merseymike
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Merseymike

I think its about time Christians of all varieties realised that Britain simply isn’t the sort of country they would like it to be, and hopefully, never will be

The Christian dimension has been marginalised because the vast majority of people have no real interest in it

That has to be accepted, not glossed over

Davew
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Davew

I don’t go with so much negativity, I think as Christians it is important to remember that Jesus didn’t attempt to change the Roman government or the Sanhedrin, just the hearts and minds of people. Also many were offended by Jesus and stopped listening to Him, so no change there to this day. But some of the Pharisees did listen to Him and some of the government are Christians. Most people in the UK are interested in Christianity enough to put their religion down as Christian on the census. I am sure we could debate which parts of the church… Read more »

Ford Elms
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Ford Elms

“As a Christian and not a pluralist I would like to see a Christian worldview adoptred by this country”

Why? Great Britain is not the Kingdom of God, neither is the US, Canada, or any other country. Even if a particular country could be run entirely on Christian principles, it wouldn’t be the Kingdom. We have to work for the coming of the Kingdom, but that isn’t done by making any one earthly kingdom a Christian one.

DaveW
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DaveW

Dear Ford Elms,
By a Christian worldview I meant Kingdom principles, as His Kingdom is not of this world.

Cheryl Clough
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DaveW. Some excellent comments on this thread. I loved this one you wrote “…surely a pluralist would acknowlege the parts the make up the plural as valid in there own right. Christian and other worldviews have opposing differences, if pluralism dislikes these differences its not fully plural.” Pluralism to be true to its philsophical intent must include in its advocacy the tolerance and freedom of speech of all parties. What I see is a lot of parties saying is that there should be freedom of speech for “our” agenda but then it is okay for us to suppress others. Whenever… Read more »

DaveW
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DaveW

Dear Cheryl Clough, In response to your comment “What I see is a lot of parties saying is that there should be freedom of speech for “our” agenda but then it is okay for us to suppress others. Whenever we make the mistake of thinking that victory is to be the ascendant party in control of censorship, we have lost. For we have become the oppressor and the very thing we were fighting against.” It depends what one believes. If one is a pluralist and pluralism means all views then fine but if one believes Jesus Christ is the way… Read more »

Ford Elms
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Ford Elms

DaveW,
Then why this, with which I agree?

“I think as Christians it is important to remember that Jesus didn’t attempt to change the Roman government or the Sanhedrin, just the hearts and minds of people.”

DaveW
Guest
DaveW

Dear Ford Elms,
Well why not that statement? the more the hearts and minds of people chnaged the more there are likely to be in government.

Cheryl Clough
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Now we sound like we are in the book of Judges. Where the Jews wanted a king, a nation to call their own. But they had fallen in love with a manifestion in this world and forgotten that neither the king nor the nation are God. They obsessed about their victory of manifestation and forgot the bigger picture. The comments infer that only Christians can envisage or create a godly government denies that other religions are also trying to find God. That argument would hold if the world was Christian and rabid atheist only; but the world is much more… Read more »

Ford Elms
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Ford Elms

DaveW,
It’s just that, on the one hand, you seemed to be saying that the ideal would be a Christian government, then that we should not try to influence government, just individuals. I think I understand it better now. And call me Ford, BTW. I’ll keep the W in your name so as to make the distinction from the other Dave, if that’s OK.

DaveW
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DaveW

Dear Cheryl Clough,
Thank you for those thoughts 🙂 Sadly I would have to say that other religions may be trying to find God but through Christ we have found God. Him your commnets infer Jesus Christ isnt ‘the’ way, ‘the’ truth and ‘the’ life but just ‘a’ way ‘a’ truth and ‘a’ life. I believe God so loved the whole world and died for all.
the bigger picture is that Jesus wasnt a white European like me but a Jew from the Middle East.

laurence roberts
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laurence roberts

What are we doing to ourselves ?

Cheryl Clough
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DaveW I found myself thinking further about your questions overnight. One thing that springs to mind was the reaction of the UK’s religious leaders after the July 7 bombings. There they all were, standing as a united front against terrorism (including ABC). Denouncing it as not being a valid religion. Either this united front was sincerely entered by ABC and cohorts, or it was simply a publicity front to placate a frightened people. One of my pussycat contemplations is a joy at watching the puritans having to tap dance to say they are not like other religious leaders who refer… Read more »

DaveW
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DaveW

Dear Cheryl Clough,
Thank you for your response once again. I am sure many people would wish to stand as a united front against terrorism not just religious leaders.
You mention ‘hate the others’ a few times. Christians surely do not hate others but bless rather than curse even their enemies.
As to holiness I believe God is Holy and Jesus is our holiness, not the use of the earth’s environment. As to the use of the earths environment I agree its a poor result but are you saying that the wealthiest countries are Christian countries and not secular?

Cheryl Clough
Guest

I am saying that the wealthy countries that claim their identity as Christians have been appalling ambassadors for both God and Jesus. They have actively colluded in developing a global economic model that institutionalises poverty (the opposite of Joseph who prevented famine). Our holiness is not just an adjective, it is a verb. To comment that our holiness is not reflected in how we use the earth’s environment is to state that such behaviours don’t matter. Is that why it is okay to bully and mistreat those that don’t flatter us? Because those who use the secret password (“Jesus”) are… Read more »

laurence roberts
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laurence roberts

DALAI LAMA SAYS SECULARISM IS THE TRUE ROUTE TO HAPPINESS The Dalai Lama has come out in defence of secularism. Speaking in Tokyo, the Tibetan spiritual figurehead said: “Secularism does not mean rejection of all religions. It means respect for all religions and human beings including non-believers. I am talking to you not as a Tibetan or a Buddhist but as a human being having a friendly discussion and sharing my experiences on the benefits of cultivating basic human values.” In a lecture on “A Good Heart – The key to Health and Happiness” the Dalai Lama emphasises that cultivating… Read more »

DaveW
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DaveW

Dear Cheryl Clough, As to your first point I wouldn’t go along with such a generalisation. One minute on this forum we seem to be saying we don’t want a Christian government and the next the government to blame seems to be regarded as Christian. The global economy isnt always to blame for poverty, in some cases it has helped alleviate poverty… but in many cases I agree you are right. As to holiness I think it means belonging to, derived from, or associated with God, revered and set apart. I would say what you refer to regarding the environment… Read more »

DaveW
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DaveW

I believe in Jesus Christ as Lord God regardless of what the Dalai Lama says.

laurence
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laurence

I don’t think HH the Dalai Lama ventured into the field of christology. (Might have been thought a tad indelicate,had he, as he himself, was said to be a re-incaarnation of the Bodhisatva of Compassion. And his birth heralded by special signs & omens— does make many of the leaders of Christian denominations seem a bit dull by comparison. Obviously, I do not include those whose origins are similar to those of HH DL — which would seem to include Jo Ratzinger, the bishops of Rochester, Durham, Abuja, Carlile, and Duncan, Schofield and Iker, I gather from them !). He… Read more »

Cheryl Clough
Guest

DaveW. Thank God for Jesus and the hope of the eternal life. Yes, it is hard to overcome problems, and there are so many that need to be overcome. The global economy has helped many, but it has caused billions to suffer. And some Christians and/or goverments and/or power brokers seem to have a sadistic idea of love. You must love me because I am beautiful and able to shower blessings on you. But because I do not approve of some people who abide with you; I will deprive you of active love in the form of food, medicines, clothing,… Read more »

DaveW
Guest
DaveW

Dear laurence,
You wrote “I don’t think HH the Dalai Lama ventured into the field of christology. ”
Well I thank God that I haven’t either.

You wrote “He was just putting forward a simple message of human co-operation & hope, around which, I think he hoped, women and men of goodwill might come together or at least encourage one another.”
Much like that of God though Jesus Christ then.

NP
Guest
NP

The Dalai Lama visited us at Cambridge University a while ago…so we had to ask him the most important question related to his identity:”Are you God?” He laughed, smiled his great smile and said “They think I am, in Tibet!” So, we asked again: “But do you think you are God?” Another big smile, a twinkle in his eye and the same response: “They think I am!” He, in his wisdom and humility, clearly thinks he is just a monk (which is good because it shows he is sane) The DL is a great man, one of the greatest. He… Read more »

DaveW
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DaveW

Dear Cheryl Clough, I am not quite sure what your point is. I agree with you that the global economy has helped many, but has caused billions to suffer. The main things here that come to my mind are lack of fair trade/exploitation and a greedy drive for prophets and progress with no view to stewardship. But could you explain what you mean by “And some Christians and/or governments and/or power brokers seem to have a sadistic idea of love.” Firstly who are supposed to be Christian governments? After having already debated here that governments aren’t Christian so much as… Read more »

Michae Massey
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Michae Massey

As an Episcopalian in the US, I read the statement of the Christian Muslim Forum with fascination. The thinking in this statement seems to be that freedom of religion is best assured by government support of the religious nature of specific holidays. By contrast, the US separation of church and state doctrine requires privatization of religion when it comes to government supported promotion of particular faiths. Prominent examples would be a Nativity scene or the displaying of the Ten Commandments in a tax supported building, school, or park. In the US, this is seen as the best way to assure… Read more »