By ROBERT WINNETT - THE TELEGRAPH
Added: Mon, 13 Feb 2012 22:49:28 UTC
In the speech, Baroness Warsi, the country’s first female Muslim Cabinet minister, is expected to draw strongly on her background to illustrate the importance of religion. Photo: Paul Grover
In an historic visit to the Vatican, Baroness Warsi will express her “fear” about the marginalisation of religion throughout Britain and Europe, saying that faith needs “a seat at the table in public life”.
In an article for The Daily Telegraph, the Cabinet Office minister says that to create a “more just society” Britons must “feel stronger in their religious identities”.
The minister, who is also chairman of the Conservative Party, says: “My fear today is that a militant secularisation is taking hold of our societies. We see it in any number of things: when signs of religion cannot be displayed or worn in government buildings; and where religion is sidelined, marginalised and downgraded in the public sphere.
“For me, one of the most worrying aspects about this militant secularisation is that at its core and in its instincts it is deeply intolerant. It demonstrates similar traits to totalitarian regimes – denying people the right to a religious identity because they were frightened of the concept of multiple identities.”
Baroness Warsi leads an unprecedented government delegation to the Vatican where she will be received by Pope Benedict for a private audience on Wednesday.
She will be the first foreign minister to deliver an address to the Pontifical Ecclesiastical Academy, which trains Papal diplomats, and the party will stay in the Santa Marta, an official residence in the Vatican for visiting cardinals.
The visit, to mark the 30th anniversary of the re-establishment of full diplomatic ties between Britain and the Vatican, follows the Pope’s successful visit to Britain in 2010 when he is said to have been impressed by the Government’s outspoken defence of the importance of religion in public life.
The speech represents one of the most strident defences of the importance of religion by a serving British minister. It comes days after the High Court ruled that local councils could not hold prayers during meetings. There have also been recent cases of public sector workers being banned from displaying Christian symbols at work.
David Cameron welcomed the visit. He said: “Our relationship with the Holy See is an important one and it speaks powerfully of the positive contribution faith can make to all societies.
“Sayeeda Warsi has consistently made the case for a deeper understanding of faith by the British Government so I am delighted that she will be taking this message to the Vatican personally.”