We mustn't be ashamed of Christianity

21st September 2007 at 01:00
Once again there seems to be a need to water down the beliefs on which our society is founded lest we cause division with those who hold different cultural or religious views.

Peter Black AM suggests the statutory requirement for a daily act of Christian worship in schools should be changed to an assembly "focused on educating children about the differences between all faiths and none".

Why? We are a Christian country with a Christian Head of State. Our parliament begins each day with Christian prayers. Our armed forces and our prisons are required to have a Christian chaplain. Even nominally Christian people usually still want to marry in church and an even greater number expect to have a religious funeral. Much of our Welsh heritage stems from the proliferation of non-conformist chapels which sprang up in the 19th century.

Our company talks to children in schools and it is clear that the children of non-Christian faiths have a definite understanding about what their faith demands of them, the structures it imposes on their daily lives and the influence it has on their culture.

The "better tolerance and understanding" Mr Black hopes for can already be seen in their peers' acceptance of the different way their friends lead their lives. Meanwhile, children brought up to be supposedly Christian have little or no knowledge of what they are meant to believe in.

Secularisation in our schools already means that we have teenagers attending our drama workshops who have never sung a Christmas carol, and many children have no idea of the true meaning of Easter, the most important event in the Christian calendar. Yet it is widely acknowledged that children need to have a sense of belonging and identity both within the family and society and without one they flounder.

Other countries don't have a problem with this. An impassioned speech by Australian leader John Howard included: "Most Australians believe in God. This is not some Christian right-wing political push but a fact because Christian men and women, on Christian principles, founded this country. God is part of our culture.'

All this apart, a 10-minute assembly once a week is never going to inform children meaningfully about any of the great world religions. Instead, it will lead to woolly bits of information about them and an understanding of none of them.

A recent Christmas celebration I attended at a local primary school included pieces on Divali, Ramadan and Yom Kippur but only five minutes at the end where Joseph, Mary and a donkey were introduced. I'm sure many children ended up convinced that Christmas celebrations should include the making of a diva, a month of fasting and the wearing of shawls by the boys.

Further, a daily act of worship is not actually about teaching the children about religion, whether Christian or otherwise. There are RE lessons for that and personal and social education lessons for looking at differing attitudes to moral issues.

The daily act of worship should be what it says, an affirmation and adherence to the Christian religion on which this country, and the rest of Europe, has been founded and developed.

I agree with Mr Black that most schools are too large to accommodate a daily full-school assembly. But there could be great benefit in having everyone, just in form classes, spending a few minutes at the beginning of the day in quiet reflection and acknowledgement that there is a greater centre to the universe than themselves.

And, in our Christian country, that "greater centre" should be our God.

Julie McGowan

is co-founder of Is It Theatre

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