CAIRO - Warning against the rising threat of militant secularization, Britain's most senior Muslim minister has raised concerns that religion was being increasingly downgraded or dismissed as an eccentricity, urging a more appropriate space for faith in public life.
People need to feel stronger in their religious identities, more confident in their beliefs, said Baroness Sayeeda Warsi, the minister for faith and communities and senior Foreign Office minister, The Daily Telegraph reported.
Warsi defended the right of Christians, Muslims, Jews and others to publicly practice their faith insisting that people who do God do good.
In practice this means individuals not diluting their faiths ... and nations not denying their religious heritages, she said.
If you take this thought to its conclusion then the idea you're left with is this: Europe needs to become more confident in its Christianity.
In a meeting in the Houses of Parliament, Warsi noted that faith groups can reach areas of need that Government cannot.
Her comments echo a call last month by the new Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, for churches to step in and do things which the state has run out of the capacity to do.
He said the financial crisis could signal the greatest moment of opportunity since the Second World War for churches to grow.
Her comments came in a speech in London marking the first anniversary of a landmark visit to the Vatican, in which she claimed that British society is under threat from the rising tide of militant secularization.
There is one big reason why I made the case for faith that day â¦ and why, I have made freedom of religion and belief a priority, and that's that people who do God do good, she said, referring to her meeting with the resigning Pope.
In other words, very often faith is the basis for good deeds. It influences, it inspires, it impels at every turn.
Faithful Do Good
Warsi referred to the recent European Court of Human Rights cases involving attempts to ban workers from wearing crosses, saying that helping the community gives a better manifestation of faith.
We may see the manifestation of faith as a crucifix around a neck, or a spire on a skyline - which of course it is, she said.
But too often we overlook the practical manifestation of faith: the mother and toddlers groups, the school assemblies, the fundraiser days, the 98 million hours churchgoers spend volunteering each year.
Warsi's comments coincide with the publication of a new survey showing Britain's growing dependence on religious groups to meet social needs in the midst of recession.
According to the annual Church and Community Involvement survey, churches alone are providing almost 100 million hours of unpaid volunteer work on social projects a year.
The percentage is up by more than a third in two years, while donations for such work are up by a fifth, the survey found.
For me, that's the most powerful manifestation of faith: The collective demonstration of people's individual beliefs, Baroness Warsi said.
It reminds for of something the ever-sage Lord Singh [leader of the Network of Sikh Organizations] said to me: that faith reaches areas of need that Government cannot.
It is what churches, synagogues, temples and mosques have been doing since time immemorial.