Religious Freedom Retreat 

Downside hosted a Retreat for young Catholic adults last weekend that examined the persecution of Christians in the world, and the reasons for this. 

After Fr. Boniface described the persecution of the English Benedictines, Hugh Walters, Head of Theology at Downside School, considered whether there was a way beyond religious violence. Retreatants who thought that they were there for a relaxing weekend, soon had pen and paper out as Hugh looked at Christianity through the lens of Rene Girard. ‘It was like being back at university!’ commented one young man.

An excellent talk discussing the extent to which religious freedom existed in modern Britain given by Sir Edward Leigh MP then followed. The international situation where Christians suffer hardship, and the reasons for this, was then described by John Pontifex of ‘Aid to the Church in Need’ (ACN) and Bishop Michael Nazir-Ali. Bishop Michael’s extensive experience in this area gave everyone a very valuable insight into the problems facing all Christians, and the need to engage with the world, rather than retreat from it. Bishop Michael described many examples of Christians in Britain losing both jobs and homes because of their beliefs.

The most important part of the Retreat then followed. This was a panel discussion where the group explored how persecution against Christians could only be countered by more effective evangelisation and education about Christianity, and its beliefs.In support of ACN’s campaign #RedWednesday, which is highlighting the importance of faith and freedom, the Abbey Church, alongside many other Churches, will be illuminated red on 28th November.

In addition to this first step in raising awareness of the fate suffered by many throughout the world by following Christ, the next Downside Young Catholics Retreat will seek to expand on this theme.

Click here to see the next Downside Young Catholics event.