Prominent Anglican Bishop Michael Nazir-Ali has said that the Catholic Church must use its global power to protect Christians threatened by Islamic militancy and secularism.
In a talk to the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham at St Patrick’s Church in Soho Square last Thursday the former Bishop of Rochester said the Church potentially had “a great future and a huge opportunity” in the emerging world order and that it now had allies in upholding orthodoxy, even in unexpected quarters.
Speaking on the subject of “A Global Christianity in the Making”, he said that how effective the Church would be depended on how Rome viewed its own position and on its willingness to address its approach to certain issues, such as culture and language.
The Pakistan-born bishop, who was an outspoken defender of Christian rights in his native land before coming to England, said that with the growth of Islamic militancy and the persecution of Christians worldwide, many people were now looking to Rome as the leading voice of Christianity against Islamic militancy. He said these people included many Evangelicals whom he knew who never, in the past, would have thought about Rome. “So the Catholic Church has both a great opportunity and also a great responsibility,” he said.
Bishop Nazir-Ali, President of the Oxford Centre for Training, Research, Advocacy and Dialogue (OXTRAD), said that he had watched the establishment and development of the Ordinariates with great and close interest. He said: “I applaud their emergence and I hope that the Anglican patrimony which Rome has recognised for the first time will manifest itself more and more. Allowing Anglican patrimony to flourish should not just be taken as an exception, but it could be a charter for the future.”
Bishop Nazir-Ali said that there was now such a variety and diversity of cultures within Christianity that it was not enough to say that the need to recognise culture was fulfilled by recognising the culture of the Eastern Churches.
“The Church must change the approach. It must not capitulate to culture nor must it destroy any culture. Instead it must take heed of Pope Benedict’s point: that the role of the Church is to enable culture to find its true centre.”
The main part of the talk was an examination of the underlying beliefs and ideologies which accounted for the persecution of Christians and the rise in Islamic militancy. He said that two things, in particular, had to be denied: one was the idea that extremism was explained solely by economic and social factors (this, he said, overlooked the nature of the militants’ agenda) and the second was the claim, expressed by some church leaders, that “a truly Islamic state would not persecute Christians”. Bishop Nazir-Ali said he could see no empirical evidence to support this view, which romanticised Islamic militancy.
Bishop Nazir-Ali also called, during his talk, for an international force to be deployed to secure the future of Christians, Yazidis and others within Iraq. He said a more generous asylum policy was only one step that needed to be taken. “Taking that step, though, does not answer the problem of the persecution of Christians by the IS in Iraq; it would be a great tragedy if the entire Christian community was exiled in the way that the militants want”, he said.
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