Views from the News
Sandy Jack, Eastbourne
Christians take prejudice row to Strazbourg
In a significant legal development, the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) has requested that the British Government state whether they believe that the rights of Christians have been infringed in recent cases where individuals have been penalized for expressing their faith in the workplace. The request has come because legal action is being taken by four Christians who argue that their rights have been infringed.
The four Christians are Nadia Eweida, a British Airways employee who was prevented from wearing a cross; Gary McFarlane, a counsellor who was sacked by a counselling service for saying that he would not give sex therapy to homosexual couples; Shirley Chaplin, a nurse who was banned from working on hospital wards for wearing a cross around her neck; and Lillian Ladele, who was disciplined by Islington council for refusing to conduct civil partnership ceremonies for homosexual couples.
The cases have been viewed by the European Court as being of such importance that they merit further investigation. Once British Government ministers have responded the Court will decide whether to hold further hearings. Many will be watching these developments closely, as the number of Christian discrimination cases in the UK appears to be continuing to rise.
It is hoped that the consideration of these cases will provide greater clarity as to how freedom of conscience for Christians can be preserved when it comes into conflict with UK ‘equality’ laws. Earlier in the year, the ECHR ruled that crosses were allowed to be displayed on classroom walls after a case from Italy was heard. This decision appeared out of step with how British courts had ruled on the four cases, which were all lost on appeal.
BBC is anti-Christian according to the Corporation’s OWN survey
The BBC is anti-Christian and ageist – according to a survey it carried out itself. Viewers also felt that minority groups were over-represented by the Corporation. They expressed concerns over ‘tokenism’ and ‘box-ticking’ and warned the broadcaster against trying to ‘manipulate’ an equal society instead of reflecting reality.
The survey was conducted as part of the BBC’s ‘Diversity Strategy’ and involved 4,500 people, including some BBC staff. Some viewers still believe the broadcaster has a Left-wing or ‘liberal bias’, the consultation found. Others said ‘positive discrimination’ was still a ‘notable’ problem with the BBC’s recruitment process. According to viewers, Christians are badly treated with ‘derogatory stereotypes’ which portray them as ‘weak’ or ‘bigoted’. It was suggested that there was a bias against Christianity and that other religions were better represented.
The consultation concluded: ‘In terms of religion, there were many who perceived the BBC to be anti-Christian and as such misrepresenting Christianity.’ It added, ‘Christians are specifically mentioned as being badly treated, with a suggestion that more minority religions are better represented despite Christianity being the most widely observed religion within Britain.’ One respondent said, ‘As a Christian I find that the BBC’s representation of Christianity is mainly inaccurate, portraying incorrect, often derogatory stereotypes’.
Eritrean Christians facing ‘unimaginable suffering’ in Egypt
Eritrean Christians fleeing persecution in their homeland are facing imprisonment, torture, beatings and sexual assault in Egypt, reports Barnabas Fund. The charity estimates that hundreds of Eritrean Christian refugees have been subjected to terrible abuse after arriving in Egypt. In Eritrea, Christians and evangelicals in particular are viewed as a threat to national security because of their allegiance to God before the state and as a result, many of them are tortured and imprisoned for their faith in conditions described by Barnabas Fund as ‘horrendous’. Persecution has intensified in recent months after an Eritrean governor ordered a purge against Christians at the end of 2010. The charity said hundreds of Eritrean Christians were risking their lives each month to enter Egypt, where they go in the hope of eventually being able to cross the border into Israel.
A Channel 4 documentary, ‘Breaking into Israel’, charted the harsh 900-mile journey made by Eritrean refugees, some of whom die before reaching their destination. Some are shot dead crossing the Egypt-Israel border and others are caught and returned to Eritrea where they face torture and even death.
According to Barnabas Fund, the majority of the Eritrean refugees are Christians and it warned that many of them were ending up in Egyptian prisons or being held hostage for $20,000 ransoms in the deserts of Sinai by Bedouin Muslim nomads who work with human traffickers.