Butterflies and Wheels, Letters for June, 2008
Regarding “More Comedy from the West Midlands Police” the following is an extract from an article by Michele Hanson in The Guardian today (3rd June):
“Two American Christian preachers have been told off by a community police officer for preaching in a Muslim area of Birmingham. Good. If only preachers were banned everywhere. The Jews don’t try to convert anyone. They are not at all keen on converts, so perhaps preachers should take a leaf out of their book, because no one likes to be told that their beliefs are rubbish and someone else’s are better. Is there anything more annoying than people coming to your street or your house uninvited and pushing their ideas down your throat? I was trained from an early age to detest it. My father would open the door and my mother would throw tennis balls at them from behind him – an unconventional but effective response.
The two rejected Birmingham preachers have been moaning about human rights and their freedom of expression, but preaching and American missionary-style “spreading God’s word” is more about bossing than expressing. They’re convinced they’re right. But does anyone dare tell them off? Off they go, all over the world, come across a culture that’s minding its own business, with its own perfectly adequate belief system, and insist on imposing their own ideas. What a cheek. Who am I to criticize? I must practice what I preach. So believe what you like, everyone, but leave the rest of us alone. We can make our own minds up.”
Well at least the Muslim policeman who harassed the preachers was acting in accordance with his beliefs. Michele Hanson is just rationaling her cowardice. (Her article is closer to Doublethink than to Hypocrisy).
When push comes to shove who is likely to fight against the imposition of an Islamic brand of fascism – Guardian journalists or American Evangelicals?
Cop sees preachers in a ‘Muslim area,’ says they are committing a hate crime.
Christian Preachers Face Arrest in Birmingham
A police community support officer ordered two Christian preachers to stop handing out gospel leaflets in a predominantly Muslim area of Birmingham.
Warned: Arthur Cunningham [left] and Joseph Abraham Photo: RII SCHROER
The evangelists say they were threatened with arrest for committing a "hate crime" and were told they risked being beaten up if they returned. The incident will fuel fears that "no-go areas" for Christians are emerging in British towns and cities, as the Rt Rev Michael Nazir-Ali, the Bishop of Rochester, claimed in The Sunday Telegraph this year.
Arthur Cunningham, 48, and Joseph Abraham, 65, both full-time evangelical ministers, have launched legal action against West Midlands Police, claiming the officer infringed their right to profess their religion.
Mr Abraham said: "I couldn't believe this was happening in Britain. The Bishop of Rochester was criticised by the Church of England recently when he said there were no-go areas in Britain but he was right; there are certainly no-go areas for Christians who want to share the gospel."
Last night, Christian campaigners described the officer's behaviour as "deeply alarming".
The preachers, both ministers in Birmingham, were handing out leaflets on Alum Rock Road in February when they started talking to four Asian youths.
They said when the officer realised they were American, although both have lived in Britain for many years, he launched a tirade against President Bush and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Mr Cunningham said: "I told him that this had nothing to do with the gospel we were preaching but he became very aggressive.
"He said we were in a Muslim area and were not allowed to spread our Christian message. He said we were committing a hate crime by telling the youths to leave Islam and said that he was going to take us to the police station."
The preacher refused to give the PCSO his address because he felt the officer's manner was "threatening and intimidating".
The ministers claim he also advised them not to return to the area. As he walked away, the PCSO said: "You have been warned. If you come back here and get beaten up, well you have been warned".
West Midlands Police, who refused to apologise, said the incident had been "fully investigated" and the officer would be given training in understanding hate crime and communication.