On Thursday the 20th of February Baroness Caroline Cox gave a keynote evening speech to the Christian Union at the University of Nottingham.
The Baroness recounted how she was originally not interested in politics during the time she worked as a nurse, but through gaining a peerage was able to explore a number of humanitarian issues. She praised how “Christianity grows so fast under persecution,” and argued that people had become too comfortable in this country so needed to be really challenged in order to test their faith. Having witnessed the effects of humanitarian issues such as the Armenian genocide and the horrific situation for Rohingya Muslims, Cox praised the grace she saw as she believed that people’s ability to forgive their enemies was helped by Christianity.
“The event did, however, take place in the shadow of opposition from some students, particularly from the LGBT community..”
Niv, who was interviewing Cox for the event, said he felt the event gave students a “positive space on campus to explore Christianity” and stressed that “there are no preconceived understandings that you must be a supporter of God.” Niv himself used to be an atheist, but shifted his view and argued that Jesus teaches Christians the value of forgiveness by “turning the other cheek.”
The speeches were then followed by informal networking where attendants discussed their thoughts on the events accompanied by snacks.
The event did, however, take place under the shadow of opposition from some students, particularly from the LGBT community, who felt that the University and the Union shouldn’t be hosting a speaker with such controversial political views, regardless of her humanitarian impact.
Baroness Cox supported section 28 of the 1988 local government act which prohibited the ‘promotion of homosexuality’ by the local authorities. This essentially meant that schools could no longer allowed to teach about the positive values of gay marriages and awareness of it was shunned away. This act wasn’t repealed until 2000.
Adding to this, Cox has also been viewed by some as Islamophobic, as she has stressed the ‘Islamist’ threat both at home and abroad as well as equating abortion with the Holocaust in her book ‘Great Britain has fallen’.
“My belief is that the essence of Christianity is love.”
The Christian Union have defended Caroline Cox’s attendance at the event, arguing that she only focused on humanitarian issues so wasn’t platforming any controversial political views. Beth Jones who helped to run the ‘[Story]’ event said that, whilst she understood the concerns, she felt that “in an age where so many people are concerned about freedom of speech everyone deserves a place to speak on our campus.” Beth also praised how Cox’s humanitarian work focused on helping those that are on the margins of society and are the most oppressed.
After the event I interviewed Baroness Cox herself to see what she had to say:
Why do you think it’s important for students to engage in events like this?
“I believe that one has to find a meaning in life and this can be achieved through Christianity. People aren’t always thinking about the ultimate questions in life which is a big issue and we must love all we can. My belief is that the essence of Christianity is love.”
How did you first get into humanitarian aid work?
“I never planned on it. I was privileged to have been asked to be a patron of the Medical Aid for Poland fund. This involved being a trucker in Poland for part of my life where I was fortunate enough to have been able to listen to people’s experiences of life under the iron curtain during the cold war.”
Many consider you to be quite conservative on issues such as abortion and gay marriage, what do you have to say about this?
“I wouldn’t consider myself to be that conservative on social issues. It is certainly true that I believe in Christian marriage between a man and a woman, but this doesn’t mean that I am negative about people who have other lifestyles. I have many friends who are gay and believe that Christianity teaches that love is unconditional.”
Whilst ‘[Story]’ is a once a year event, the Christian Union hold regular meetings on Tuesday as well as groups meeting in halls and living areas with their membership consisting of around 150 to 200 students. They hope that events like this will encourage more people to engage with God and open up discussions about Christianity.
Featured imagine courtesy of James Smith via Facebook.
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