By Jonathan Wynne-Jones, Sunday Telegraph
Last Updated: 12:13am GMT 05/11/2006
A leading church group which represents more than a million Christians has raised the prospect of civil unrest and even “violent revolution” to protect religious freedoms.
In a startling warning to the Government, senior church and political figures have backed a report advocating force to protest against policies that are “unbiblical” and “inimical to the Christian faith”.
The menacing language of the report, which Lord Mawhinney, the Tory peer, Andy Reed, the Labour MP, and the Rt Rev Peter Forster, the Bishop of Chester, helped to produce, echoes comments made by Muslim fanatics.
Only days ago, Islamic activist Anjem Choudary said Muslims had become radicalised because they were “a community under siege”.
The report from the Evangelical Alliance says “violent revolution” should be regarded as a viable response if government legislation encroaches further on basic religious rights. The church is urged to come to a consensus that “at some point there is not only the right but the duty to disobey the state”.
The report, entitled “Faith and Nation”, comes amid growing concern that people are being prevented from expressing their faith, including BA’s recent decision that an employee could not wear a crucifix.
The Government’s attempt to introduce religious hatred laws has highlighted the growing threat to religious liberty, the report says. Pope Benedict XVI has also said that God is being pushed to the margins by “secular forces”.
Proposals to ban proselytising in publicly-funded Christian projects could ultimately lead to Christians being prevented from teaching others about the Bible. This would “be unambiguously recognised by Christians as perpetrating evil that has to be resisted by deliberate acts of defiance”, the report says.
While it has always been expected that the greatest threat to Britain’s security will come from Muslim extremists, the report will cause particular alarm to government ministers as it reveals disquiet among the country’s Christian population.
Significantly, it comes from the Evangelical Alliance – a mainstream organisation representing 1.2 million Christians. The organisation acknowledges that “resisting evil in the modern state” can take many different forms. Before resorting to force, Christians would normally first turn to dialogue.
But in some circumstances “the use of defensive force may become a necessary and legitimate remedy for Christians”, it suggests.
“If, as most Christians accept, they should be politically involved in democratic processes, many believe this may, where necessary, take the form of active resistance to the state. This may encompass disobedience to law, civil disobedience, involving selective, non-violent resistance or, ultimately, violent revolution.”
Mike Morris, the executive director of the Evangelical Alliance, said that the report reflected the breadth of submissions they had received.
“It is not as if Christians are going to take to the streets, but we need to be able to stand up to things that are challenging the Christian conscience, regardless of the consequences.”
However, the Very Rev Colin Slee, the Dean of Southwark, said it would send out a confused message.
“The fundamental themes of the gospel are love and reconciliation, not violent revolution,” he said.
The Evangelical Alliance has raised the debate at a time when religious liberty issues are beginning to dominate the headlines following the row over Muslim women’s right to wear the veil and BA’s decision to suspend Nadia Eweida, 55, for breaching its uniform policy by wearing a cross.
Anjem Choudary, who helped organise the anti-Danish cartoon protests, last week said that the London bombings should not have come as a surprise. “How else do you expect Muslims to express themselves?” he said. “We are a community under siege. It’s going to blow up one day in everyone’s faces.”
This newspaper revealed last week the increasing anxiety among senior police officers at the change in “the landscape of political protest” since the millennium – prompting them to consider introducing water cannons to control violent street protests.
Tarique Ghaffur, the Assistant Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police Force, said last week: “Recent high-profile demonstrations and the actions of individuals or groups at localised protests have served to highlight a complex dynamic emerging in London, built around a potentially volatile mix of issues and increasingly diametrically opposed religious-political viewpoints.”