The Spirit of One and All
I recently sat in a room at a meeting of the Cornwall Faith Forum. Alongside Roman Catholics, Quakers and Methodists there were representatives of the Muslim, Jewish and Hindu communities. We had an interesting conversation about the teaching of RE and the development of Cornwall’s distinctive syllabus, and we updated each other about upcoming events.
But as we talked a common theme emerged. We discussed the marking of Holocaust Memorial Day; we considered how many people had come together at the Quenchwell Islamic Centre following the Christchurch shootings; we talked about the Easter atrocity in Sri Lanka as well as the San Diego synagogue shooting.
It was a powerful reminder that religiously motivated violence, discrimination and persecution is not the preserve of any one faith community.
Catalyst for change
Back in January the erstwhile Foreign Secretary, Jeremy Hunt, asked me to chair an independent review into the persecution of Christians. I delivered the interim report not long after Easter (https://christianpersecutionreview.org.uk) and the final report was completed at the end of June. The Government has since accepted all of its recommendations, and I sincerely hope it will act as a catalyst for change.
So why, given what I said above, was I leading on a piece of work that seemed to favour one faith over another? The truth is, I wasn’t. Jeremy Hunt suspected that the persecution of Christians had been significantly under-recognised in the West and our research suggested he was right. So this was not about favouritism: rather it was about making up a deficit; it was about equality.
And there’s another reason too. Arguably the Christian faith is the one truly global faith, well represented on every continent, and it’s relatively well-connected too. So if we learn that a Christian minority is being persecuted in one context you can be fairly confident other minorities will be too.
Both expressions of One and All
So I see no conflict between my experience at the Cornwall Faith Forum and the work of the independent review. In fact, they have something in common. Both are an expression of our Cornish motto of ‘One and All’. We express solidarity with our neighbours locally here in Cornwall, with those of other faiths and none, recognising that we are indeed neighbours. But we recognise too that our neighbourliness is international and knows no borders.
At our best, our Cornish tradition is to be outward-looking and generous-hearted: the spirit, indeed, of ‘One and All’. I’m proud and honoured to help give it expression in this way.