After his liberation from a concentration camp at the end of the Second World War, Martin Niemöller wrote a haunting poem of regret that he had not done more to oppose the Nazi tyranny in its early stages. It lists several persecuted sections of the population:
First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out because I was not a socialist ...
then they came for the trades unionists, Jews, etc ...
when they came for me there was no one left to speak for me.
Last week it became clear that the UK government has moved beyond quiet betrayal to open denunciation of Christians, and the values that Niemöller belatedly came to represent, as it came to light that an asylum-seeker from Iran, who had sought sanctuary in Britain on the basis that he had converted to Christianity refused.
The official letter explaining the reasons for this decision, began: ‘Consideration has first been given to the Bible’. The letter proceeded to produce six quotations which one might generally describe as amongst the classic ‘bad bits’ of the Bible: one each from the Books of Leviticus and Exodus, three from the Book of Revelations and, representing the gospels, one quotation from Jesus taken from the Gospel: ’Think not that I come to send peace on earth, I come not to spread peace but a sword’. The letter concluded: ’These examples are inconsistent with your claim that you converted to Christianity after discovering it is a peaceful religion as opposed to Islam which contains violence, rage and revenge.’
The Church’s response to this outrageous trashing of its faith, was a mildly phrased press release from the Bishop of Durham, objecting, in a self-consciously secular C or E way, that to ‘to use extracts from the Book of Revelation to argue that Christianity is a violent religion is like arguing that a Government report on the impact of Climate Change is advocating drought and flooding.’
Worryingly, the immigration officer’s insulting, self-indulgent and inhumane misuse of their power does not seem to be the one-off cock-up of a rogue civil servant. The lawyer who leaked it had previously dealt with a letter from the immigration department, refusing a similar application, that sneered at the applicant:
‘You affirmed in your (application) that Jesus is your saviour but then claimed that he would not be able to save you from the Iranian regime It is therefore considered that you have no conviction in your faith and your belief in Jesus is half hearted. ‘
Even the refusal of the Home Office to offer asylum to Asia Bibi - still languishing, and it is said in desperate need of medical attention, in a Pakistan (anything but) ‘safe house’ - can now be seen to be not, as was widely thought at the time, a decision born of fear of a rioting Muslim mob, but even less forgivably of an institutional governmental intolerance for Christianity per se. Come to think of it, what religion are most of the Windrush generation?
There is no doubt that the nasty little amateur theologian who wrote the anti-Christian (and for that matter anti-Jewish) diatribe was not the sharpest of intellect. His letter carefully recorded the dates and times upon which he had captured the Bible quotes from a website - as if they were in danger of being changed!
But the issue here is not the quality of the writer’s mind or their character (both pretty low grade by the looks of it), but the important job that they were engaged in – making life or death decisions about another human being - and the milieu in which they were operating, in which they obviously had been led to think that such a letter would be acceptable.
Moreover, the Home Office’s response to the bishop contained no apology, no reference to any likely disciplinary action and only a vague reference to an identified need for more ‘training’ (presumably not to make it so bloody obvious next time). It demonstrated no shock or disapproval at the obvious, deep and vitriolic anti-Christian bias. It Hardly needs to be said that if such a letter had been written about the only religion that would have justified it, there would no doubt have been ministerial resignations, the establishment of a crime scene, and Theresa May prostrating herself in a burqa towards the nearest television camera.
Hitler regarded Christianity with loathing; he is said to have found Islam much more to his taste. He realised early on that a value system that, properly understood, can inspire individuals to selfless acts in the name of love for their neighbour, that challenges rather than promotes tyranny, is an ideology that must be crushed for state power be absolute. The Nazis launched an aggressive campaign against it that eventually scooped up even uncomplaining Christians such as Niemöller.
We should all be very worried that last week the establishment’s long time creeping intolerance of cribs and Easter eggs was shown to have progressed to a civil service that now collectively recoils vampire-like, hissing, from the sight of a cross
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