Bishop: Bureaucrats are writing Christ out of Christmas
23rd December 2006
By GLEN OWEN
A leading Church of England bishop has launched an outspoken attack on "thoughtless bureaucracy and political correctness" for helping to "write Christ out of Christmas".
The Rt Rev Dr Michael Nazir-Ali, the Bishop of Rochester, accuses a small but powerful group of officials of marginalising religious celebrations out of an oversensitivity to multiculturalism.
Writing in The Mail on Sunday, Bishop Nazir-Ali, who was born to Christian parents in Pakistan but comes from a Muslim family background, also appears to call for Christians to maintain their traditions to combat the threat posed by Islamic fundamentalism.
"Britain is again faced with the challenge of a totalitarian ideology that...claims to be rooted in a religious tradition," he writes.
"If Britain is to defend its values successfully, it must rediscover the Christian faith in which these values are ultimately rooted."
Quoting the example of a charity shop window that had a carol pasted inside - but with all the verses about Christ removed - he says there is "mounting evidence that Christmas is being marginalised" by 'a relatively small number of organisations, publications and people who would like to see Christmas made a matter for private celebration'.
"They have had a disproportionate influence on legislation and on the life of the nation in the past 40 years...employers and schools are reluctant to have public celebrations of Christmas because it could be seen as discriminatory against non-Christians and leave them open to litigation."
Last month the Archbishop of York, Dr John Sentamu, took a similar stance when he criticised Government Ministers for sending non-Christian Christmas cards for fear of offending other religions.
The bishop's remarks follow an extraordinary attack on Tony Blair by the Archbishop of Canterbury.
In an unusually political message for the Christmas weekend, Dr Rowan Williams said the Government's "ignorant" and "short-sighted" policy in Iraq had placed the Middle East's Christian population at risk.
The Foreign Office immediately issued a statement insisting that its policies had not increased persecution in the region.
Speaking during a visit to the Holy Land with Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O"Connor, the leader of Britain's Catholics, and other church leaders, Dr Williams said the Prime Minister had failed to heed their warning that military action would leave Christians exposed as representatives of the "crusading West".
"What we have seen in the last year or so in Iraq has been attacks on Christian priests, the murder of some Christian priests, and the massive departure of large numbers of Christians from Iraq," he told the BBC.
"I think there is no doubt that for Christians in Iraq the situation has got worse since the fall of Saddam."
Dr Williams's comments came after he wrote an article in The Times condemning the Government for having no strategy for dealing with the aftermath of war.
"Iraq's own Christian population is dropping by thousands every couple of months and some of its most effective leaders have been forced to emigrate,' he wrote.
"In Istanbul, the Orthodox population is a tiny remnant.
"In Egypt, where Christian-Muslim relations have been - and still are - intimate and good, extremist attacks on Christians have become more frequent.
"It's not unknown for Arab Christian families fleeing to the UK to find that their children are told in school that 'they must be Muslims really' and so are hived off with Muslim children for special activities.
And that simply illustrates that we in the UK are seriously badly informed about Middle Eastern Christians."
The Foreign Office said: "We don't think it is our policies in Iraq that cause suffering of Christians.
"It is intolerant extremism of people who want to cause pain and suffering and chaos in order to promulgate the societies in which they can impose the way of life they want on people who have clearly voted for democracy and democratic government.
"The only way out of this is for us to work closely with the democratically elected government in Iraq to create a society in which the rights of Christians and all are protected."