British bishop declares solidarity with persecuted atheists

A British bishop has declared that Catholics should be in solidarity with persecuted atheists.

Bishop Declan Lang of Clifton decried the hacking deaths of Bangladeshi bloggers that have occurred in recent years and noted that British politicians condemned the murder of Faisal Abedin Deepan, a publisher of secular books.

"The Catholic community in England and Wales has a role to play in ensuring that the government maintains this position and continues to speak out when people are imprisoned, tortured or killed on account of their atheism," Lang wrote in a March 4 article for The Catholic Universe, a British weekly.

"Doing so will not only be a practical expression of solidarity with those suffering the most appalling persecution, but will also promote freedom of religion or belief as a universal right to the benefit of all."



Lang, who chairs the international affairs department of the British bishops' conference, noted that some were surprised when his fellow bishops in Bangladesh criticized their government last year for not protecting the bloggers who were known to have been at risk.

"[I]t is in fact a powerful demonstration of the stand that we are called to take whenever people are persecuted for their beliefs," he wrote.

He cited examples across the globe where people of one faith have stood up for believers in another -- including Christians for Yazidis in Iraq and Muslims in South East Asia.

"However our compassion must never be limited only to people of faith," he said. "History has shown time and time again that when one minority group is oppressed with impunity, others soon face the same fate."

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