Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis has said religion is coming “under sustained attack in the public domain” in a panel debate between faith leaders.
His comments came in an online panel debate with Christian, Muslim, Hindu and Sikh leaders, convened by the Commonwealth Jewish Council, and featuring a video message from Prince Charles.
Asked what he meant by his statement that religion was coming under sustained attack, he said: “There was a time when our society was primarily religious. Then we moved to a time when religion was tolerated. Now we’re experiencing an era in which, in some circles – I shudder to even say it – people are anti-religious.”
He added: “There are movements such as Humanists and secularists and atheists and so on who are actively working to end the existence of faith schools, to remove Christmas carols from malls in December, to remove representatives of faiths within the media, so the public square should be void of religion.”
Referring to the role of religion during the coronavirus pandemic, Mirvis said such a void would be “a tragedy for society, especially at a time when religion has so much to give a vulnerable world”.
Elsewhere in the debate, Mirvis addressed an audience question on the role of religion when it comes to both women’s and girls’ rights as well as the LGBT+ community, saying they were “huge issues”.
He said: “Religion has a responsibility to every single person within our societies and in many respects we are failing in those regards.”
In his pre-recorded message, Prince Charles said it was “important to celebrate the remarkable religious diversity” of the Commonwealth, citing his visit to a synagogue in Barbados as one of several times in which he saw that diversity in action.
The heir-to-the-throne paid tribute to “the essential role that faith communities play in the social fabric of so many Commonwealth countries… so often the main providers of welfare, health and education to all sorts of people”.