Churchgoers in Europe are “heading for a bloodless persecution” at the hands of secularists, the head of a European think-tank has said.
Dr Gudrun Kugler cautioned that, while it would be wrong to compare “injustices” in Europe to those in North Korea, India or Pakistan, religious freedom here is nevertheless a “hard-won achievement”.
And, warning that “advocates” were needed to keep religious freedom alive, she called on church leaders and church attenders to “speak out more clearly and boldly when they see religious freedom being undermined”.
In her comments to debate website MercatorNet.com, Dr Kugler said that those in public life who are churchgoers also “have to have the courage to resist restrictions on religious liberties”.
Dr Kugler cautioned that religious freedom is “at risk”, saying: “In private you can pray and think as you like – but in the public square there are ever more restrictions.”
She warned that journalists and policy makers are often more hostile towards churchgoers than general citizens, but it is such people in the media and politics that “shape the mood of the country”.
Dr Kugler, who is also a lawyer, commented there is such a “negative attitude” towards churchgoers because they are “the last obstacle to a new vision of secularity which is so politically correct that it verges on totalitarianism”.
She warned that religious freedom “cannot be taken for granted” in Europe.
Dr Kugler also suggested that future persecution would not come in the style of Ancient Roman or Communist persecution, but said that, “there are signs that hostility towards free and open demonstrations of faith is growing”.
She said churchgoers are “increasingly marginalized and are appearing more often in courts over matters related to faith”.
Dr Kugler also commented that church attenders are “increasingly being described as ‘homophobic’, sexist, intolerant and unworldly”.
Questioned about what churchgoers can do in response to the issues raised by her comments, she said: “Speak up”.
Dr Kugler said that many “don’t realise that defending their beliefs is a way of speaking up for the weak, the disadvantaged and the defenceless”.
Continuing, she said churchgoers have to “seek inspiration” from those who “bravely face violent forms of persecution, instead of quietly backing down”.
Earlier this year a national newspaper commentator said Christians in Britain should not accept intolerance directed against their faith even if it only appears to be mild.
Writing in The Daily Telegraph Cristina Odone also urged the Prime Minister to “stand up for Christians” both at home and abroad.
And while acknowledging that the difficulties experienced by believers in the UK pale in comparison to the persecutions endured in some countries she insisted that Christians shouldn’t “accept intolerance at home simply because it carries less risk than abroad”.
She continued: “When their institutions are forced to adopt secular standards in everything from rules of employment to selection of intake, the community should speak up for a fair society in which secularist values do not automatically trump Christian values.”
A recent survey also revealed that the majority of churchgoers in the UK feel that Christians are being increasingly marginalised in public life.
According to the poll, conducted by ComRes on behalf of Premier Christian Media, 81 per cent of churchgoers think the marginalisation of Christians is happening more and more in the media and press.
At the beginning of December former Archbishop of Canterbury Lord Carey warned that there are attempts to “stealthily and subtly” brush aside the Christian faith in the UK.
Lord Carey was writing in a leaflet promoting a “Not Ashamed” campaign which encourages Christians to express their beliefs in public and at work. The campaign is organised by the religious liberty group, Christian Concern.
In 2009 Cherie Blair, wife of former Prime Minister Tony Blair, said Christians were being silenced and pushed to the fringes of society.
Mrs Blair, a lawyer and Roman Catholic, said: “Christians are often being marginalised and faith is something few people like to discuss openly”.
However, she said she thought the solution lay in traditional churches doing more to reflect the social changes of the 60s.