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Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2494

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Christians could become focus of government extremism strategy simply because of their faith, Bishop Davies warns pilgrims


Christians could become a focus of the Government’s new counter-extremism strategy by professing their faith in Jesus Christ, the Bishop of Shrewsbury has warned Catholics.

The Rt Rev. Mark Davies expressed his concern to more than a thousand English pilgrims gathered at the Marian shrine of Lourdes, France, that Christianity might be caught-up in measures to combat “non-violent extremism” if there was no clear definition of what constituted such dangerous extremism.

Although Theresa May’s new counter-extremism measures aimed ostensibly to counter the ideology that underpinned many terrorist attacks, the Bishop suggested they could also be misused to ensnare peaceful Christians who disagreed with the emerging secularist ideologies often sponsored by the state.

The Bishop spoke of the “destructive extremism” of the ideologies towards marriage, the family and in the field of  medical ethics.

As an example of confusion over the definition of extremism, the Bishop cited findings of a recent ComRes poll which discovered that nearly a third of Britons said Jesus Christ was an extremist.

Bishop Davies told pilgrims from the Dioceses of Shrewsbury and Salford that Christians are extreme only in their “following of Christ and in all that contributes to the good of society, recognising how we are all called to the extremes of charity, of virtue, of grace, of unswerving adherence to goodness and truth, to the high goal of holiness in which lies our ultimate happiness”.

Bishop Davies said: “There is a destructive extremism we ought to fear, one which seeks not only to de-construct marriage and the family, but the very identity of the human person; which calls for medical experimentation with no reference to ethical boundaries; that decrees the unborn may live only to terms fixed by man, demands legal protections be removed from the sick and the aged. It is such extremism which surely threatens the foundations of society.”

The Bishop said: “It is even possible that the very faith in Christ on which our nation was built, might become a focus of the Government’s counter-extremism agenda.”

The Government set out its plans for a Commission for Countering Extremism in the Queen’s speech. The commission, which could be independent of Parliamentary scrutiny, will have the task of defining “non-violent extremism” and “to support the Government in stamping out extremist ideology in all its forms, both across society and on the internet, so it is denied a safe space to spread”.

Yet a poll of 2,004 people carried out in mid-July by ComRes for the Evangelical Alliance found that 28 per cent considered Jesus Christ to be an extremist.

Thirteen per cent thought that the Dalai Lama could be considered an extremist, 20 per cent said Gandhi could be considered an extremist while 25 per cent thought that Martin Luther King and Nelson Mandela could be considered extremists.

A total of 41 per cent of those polled said that people who believed that marriage was only between one man and one woman were extremists.

The poll also found that 48 per cent of people did not think the abolition of the monarchy was extreme, while the same proportion said it was not extreme to give animals the same rights as human beings.

The churches have been highly sceptical about the efficacy of a strategy to combat the spread of ideas considered as extremist given the subjective and changing nature of how extremism can be defined.

Some Christian groups have already complained that measures taken ostensibly to combat the spread of radical Islam have been used increasingly as a pretext to impose ideologies within institutions which are non-violent but do not share the new and emerging beliefs or values of the secularist state.


(Photo by Simon Caldwell)