Belfast Telegraph

Christians the world over should wear their faith as badge of pride

By Alf McCreary

One of the more dramatic sights over the Easter holiday weekend was the television footage of the Pope presiding over a religious ceremony outside a dramatically lit Colosseum in Rome.

It caught my attention partly because I have seen the Colosseum many times, most recently in February when I was driven past this magnificent building on my way to the airport.

I had been in Rome with my Last of the Summer Wine companions for the Irish international against Italy, but there is more to life than rugby, and Rome is such a wonderfully historical city.

The Colosseum looked peaceful and serene in the early morning light as I went past, but it was also the scene of some of the greatest brutalities in the history of the Roman Empire, and was where Christians were thrown to the lions to entertain the locals.

The expansion and survival of Christianity against the might of Rome, and of other empires, was miraculous, and the presence of Pope Francis, splendidly attired in white at this place of torture and death for Christians, was also symbolic of the triumph of goodness over evil.

Sadly, the persecution of Christians continues today in many parts of the world, and the recent murder of the members of the Egyptian Coptic Church was just another example of what has been taking place.

Christianity is being attacked not just by the brutality of Isis and other militant Islamists, but is also being undermined by the prevailing political correctness that makes some people reluctant to show their faith openly.

This was demonstrated not so long ago by Tony Blair's then press secretary Alastair Campbell, who said cynically and patronisingly "We don't do God".

Sadly, Tony Blair kept his faith under wraps when in office and said that when politicians talk about their faith, "frankly, people do think that you are a nutter".

David Cameron announced his backing for religion in general, but he was the Prime Minister who opportunistically backed same-sex marriage, though it had not been in the Tory manifesto.

Clearly, any backing for Christianity in the top corridors of power has been unreliable, to say the least.

However, there is no doubt about Prime Minister Theresa May, the vicar's daughter who proudly and firmly proclaims her Christian faith.

In her Easter message she said: "We must continue to ensure that people feel able to speak about their faith, and that absolutely includes their faith in Christ."

Mrs May is not the only major female figure in public life who is not afraid to talk about her Christian faith.

For quite a few years, the Queen has mentioned her personal faith in her annual Christmas broadcasts, and she does so in a quiet non-confrontational way that is all the more impressive because of its low-key approach.

People of all faiths should note the example of these two exceptional women, and Christians in particular should take heart in re-doubling their efforts to defend their faith.

For far too long they have allowed themselves to be cowed by the political correctness of self-important individuals who seem to go out of their way to target Christians.

Recently there was a story about a hospital worker who was penalised because she offered to share a prayer with a patient who was in need of help.

Almost every other week we read stories about Christians who are not allowed to wear a necklace displaying a cross in their place of work.

Such narrow nonsense eats away at the tolerance for which Britain has been so admired worldwide.

It also undermines some of the basic values of our society, which have their roots in Christianity.

As writer Douglas Murray noted: "Today there is a growing admission that what we have in 21st century Britain did not emerge out of thin air, but came largely from the philosophy and foundations of the faith we have spent recent decades shrugging off".

So full marks to Mrs May for backing publicly the Christian faith which sustains her privately in one of the most difficult jobs imaginable.

I wish there were more people like her.

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