What values?

The news is not good.  A week ago we were hearing the latest twist in the “Trojan Horse” saga, the ‘plot’ to infiltrate extreme Islamist views into Birmingham schools.  On the radio this morning the Middle East was described as imploding, with stories of Isis, a Jihadist group sweeping across Iraq from one direction while Kurdish separatists took another part.  There is the ongoing terrible situation in Syria.  Alongside this the Ukranian government accused Russia of sending tanks over Ukraine’s Eastern border;, South Sudanese people continue to starve as the civil war storms on, and another terrorist group, Boko Harem seem to have made certain parts of Nigeria into no-go areas.  No wonder we feel anxious and helpless, particularly when we hear of young men brought up in Britain going to join these extreme organisations which we tend to blanket describe as ‘terrorist.’

The response to the Trojan Horse situation from the government was that we must teach British values in our schools.  But hold on; what values are we talking about here?  What are the underlying messages of our society?  What do we applaud in our culture?  What are we inviting young people to reach for?  What sense of meaning or purpose do we give them for their lives?

Young people are hungry for meaning and purpose.  That is why the big political movements of the past were so often made up largely of the young.  Think of the Ban the Bomb marches, the anti-Vietnam War protests.  Jesus chose young men as his followers.  Perhaps one reason that so many Muslim men from this country are leaving to fight against Assad (and then finding themselves fighting other rebels instead) is because they have a desire to live for something bigger than themselves.  Because they are young and hungry for meaning they are vulnerable to manipulation but that doesn’t mean that the original longing in them was not for something good.

Britain does have strong values but they are largely hidden under the more obvious traits exposed in the media of greed and selfishness.  One of our values is unity.

Unity…is more than solidarity and more than uniformity.  Unity, ironically, is a commitment to becoming one people who speak in a thousand voices.  Rather than one message repeated by a thousand voices, unity is one message shaped by a thousand minds…The kind of unity that is born out of difference and becomes the glue of a group has four characteristics: it frees, it enables, it supports, and it listens.

(Joan Chissiter, “For all that has been, thanks.”)


We recognise that whatever we might once have been we are now a diverse nation, made up of many peoples with their cultures, religions and histories.  All our justice is undergirded by law based on the Christian faith.  Jesus by engaging with all sorts of people in his ministry paved the way for the early Church to include slaves, women, foreigners and the poorest of the poor.  He taught that everyone is valued and loved by God, so let us go on seeking unity in diversity.


We do not have to force people to become Christian in this country.  Let the faith speak for itself and let us honour other peoples’ religions and listen to them.  But it is about time we honoured our inheritance and stopped shrugging it off as being of no consequence.  Let us celebrate and teach what is good for all people.