Bishop says Rome is West’s only hope to stop Islamic militancy
The prominent Anglican Bishop, Michael Nazir-Ali, formerly the Bishop of Rochester, has spoken of the overriding importance of the Catholic Church’s global voice for the future of Christianity in a world threatened by Islamic militancy and secularism.
He said the Catholic Church potentially had “a great future and a huge opportunity” in the emerging world order and that it now had allies in upholding orthodoxy, even in unexpected quarters.
However, he said that how effective it would be depended on how Rome viewed its own position and on its willingness to address its approach to certain issues. He identified these as culture and language and discipline.
Bishop Nazir-Ali, who has both a Christian and a Muslim family background and is now President of the Oxford Centre for Training, Research, Advocacy and Dialogue (OXTRAD), made his remarks to the clergy of the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham – the structure set up by Pope Benedict to allow Anglicans to enter the full communion of the Catholic Church.
Bishop Nazir-Ali said that, with the growth of Islamic militancy and the persecution of Christians worldwide, many people were now looking to Rome as the voice that could stem the tide.
These people included many Evangelicals whom he knew would never have thought about Rome in the past but now understood its role in global affairs: “So the Catholic Church has both a great opportunity and also a great responsibility”.
Bishop Nazir-Ali’s talk began with an examination of the exponential growth of Christianity in various parts of the world over the last 100 years, and said that there was much to be said that was positive about the future for Christianity.
He was alarmed by the underlying beliefs and ideologies which accounted for the persecution of Christians and the rise in Islamic militancy, however.
Two things, in particular, had to be denied: one was the idea that extremism was explained solely by economic and social factors – this he said, overlooked the nature of the militants’ agenda – and the second was the claim, expressed by some Church leaders, that “a truly Islamic state would not persecute Christians”. Bishop Nazir-Ali said he could see no empirical evidence to support this view, which romanticised Islamic militancy.
Bishop Nazir Ali also called for the deployment of an international force to secure the future of Christians, Yazidis and others within Iraq.
He said a more generous asylum policy was only one step that needed to be taken. “ Taking that step does not answer the problem of the persecution of Christians by the IS in Iraq” he said.
“It would be a great tragedy if the entire Christian community were to be exiled in the way that the militants want”, he said.