Religious insignia

Well I hope I get my pectoral cross through the airport security tonight – since the display of religious symbols is becoming such a huge political issue.  One has to be careful – India Knight in today’s Sunday Times suggests that Moslems are becoming the ‘new Jews’ and that the political sensitivity about dress and veils is part of a growing anti-Islamic feeling in society.  There is, of course, a legitimate and honourable argument about religious freedom – and religious groups which feel under pressure will naturally tend either to vanish out of sight in order not to draw attention to themselves or will do the opposite -asserting ever more strongly their identity and individuality.  Out of my reading and exploring of the nature of sectarianism in Ireland, I find myself unhappy when strong expressions of religious identity become the bearer or the marker of other strands of cultural and political identity.  I have no problem with strong and confident expressions of religious belonging – provided that they come with strong messages about including and respecting other strongly-held expressions of belonging.  But then of course you run into the difficulty which I used to run into in my parish.  I used to risk saying, ‘I don’t think I would be happy to send my child to the Free Presybterian Sunday School’ [Ian Paisley’s Church].  To which parishioner would reply, ‘Sure they are all the same anyway – isn’t that what you are always saying?’

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