I hope all readers had a happy and peaceful Christmas.
As this is the first day back at the office for most of us, I thought I would cheer everyone up with how Christians around the world experienced the period.
Here is what Christians in Indonesia had to put up with.
In Egypt a prominent cleric issued genocidal threats against the country’s Christians, and taunted them:
‘What do you think — that America will protect you? Let’s be very clear, America will not protect you. If so, it would have protected the Christians of Iraq when they were being butchered!’
Meanwhile, in post-Arab Spring Tunisia, the locals were warned by a hard-line preacher of increasing popularity: ‘Sharing the feast days of the infidel or even sending them greetings to mark them is a big sin,’ Sheikh Beshir Ben Hassine said in sermon posted on Facebook, ‘Wishing someone a Merry Christmas or a Happy New Year is forbidden by Islam.’
And in case anybody thinks this is all just random lunacy from the fringes, here is what happened in our great ally Saudi Arabia: Saudi religious police stormed a house in the Saudi Arabian province of al-Jouf, detaining more than 41 guests for ‘plotting to celebrate Christmas’, a statement from the police branch released Wednesday night said. The raid is the latest in a string of religious crackdowns against residents perceived to threaten the country’s strict religious code.
The list could easily go on.
Fortunately for these Christians, and millions of others suffering around the world, Britain has a crack-squad of top religious leaders to address such problems.
Which is why the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, chose to use his most prominent sermon of the year to address the issue of women bishops.
And the Cardinal Archbishop of Westminster, Vincent Nichols, used his most prominent sermon of the year to oppose civil marriage equality for gays.
People sometimes wonder about the marginalisation of Christianity in our culture. Those looking for answers need look no further than these two church leaders – men too ignorant or too terrified even to dwell on the sufferings of their co-religionists.