Wednesday, 16 April 2014

Big questions asked as part of our GCSE REvision conference

As part of their exam preparation, students had the opportunity to question representatives from faith communities about their responses to some of the issues that are on the GCSE syllabus. We are very grateful to the members of the Preston Faith Forum who gave their time to come in and speak to our students.

Approximate transcript of the Broughton Big Questions REvision session:
Saskia: What are your views on the recent legalisation of gay marriage?
BUDDHIST: I believe it’s a great thing. Personally, as a Buddhist I believe in equality and freedom of choice.
MUSLIM: As Muslims, we believe that marriage is only for the opposite sex. We would not be happy with someone being in a gay marriage, but would treat that person with respect.  Personally, I would try to deal with it in a spiritual way and they would be welcome in the mosque. In my opinion this is not conducive to society.
CATHOLIC: The Catholic view is that marriage is for one man and woman, but as a member of the state I accept equal marriage. Equality is right and correct in UK law. However, as Christian I would not recognise it as a marriage as it goes against Catholic teaching.  On a personal level, I would like the Church to recognise these relationships with a blessing. I would say that it is something about which people must make their own mind up before God.  Life's complicated; you just have to do the best you can and pray deeply.
FREE METHODIST: As a Free Methodist I would hold the same view, marriage is between a man and woman.
ANGLICAN: The Church of England has a wide perspective on this issue. Some ministers would like to allow gay marriage, but the official line is that they do not. A Christian marriage is between a man and woman. In my personal opinion, it is so rare to find someone who really understands and loves you; we must recognise that sometimes you might find that person from the same gender.

Beth – Can you clarify the differing views on leadership of women in the Catholic Church?CATHOLIC: In the Catholic Church, ordination to the priesthood is not open for women. Ministry is exclusively for men. In the early church women served others in community as deacons - caring for the sick, the poor and teaching.  Although there are no ordained roles for women in the Catholic Church, there are many other roles that women can take on in the church. The Pope has appointed women to senior, influential but non ordained posts in the Vatican.

Lily: Should we intervene in cases like Syria? Even if leads to war?
BUDDHIST: As a Buddhist I believe that harming others is wrong. In situations like this we need to weigh up wisdom. What is the greatest benefit for greatest number? How can we know?  Do no harm is an essential part of Buddhist belief in karma.  We would say that if you send people to war you are ultimately responsible for their deaths. It requires great wisdom to know that what you do will be effective.
MUSLIM: The Prophet (pbuh) said "Do not wish to meet the enemy, but if you do, you must stand firm".  I recently spent 3 days in Syria providing humanitarian aid. The people of Syria are normal people, who see victory as withstanding aggression. They have been withstanding aggression for over two years. There has to be someone who can stop this sort of evil. If you see something is wrong you should try to stop it with your hand, if you can't then with your tongue, if you can't, then with your heart. We need to pray that this will stop, but war and conflict is part of life.
ANGLICAN: When I worked in the armed police I had the authority to tell people that they could use bullets in certain situations. This weighed heavily on me as a Christian. That bullet could be used to take a life.  I had to see it as part of working for the greater good.
FREE METHODIST: Christianity is principally about love, forgiveness and restoration. Reconciliation is part of the Christian requirement to love your neighbour as yourself. When does the suffering of a nation require us to intervene? Ultimately it is a question of proportion. What is a proportionate response to the current situation?
CATHOLIC: War is an evil and great harm is done. In our response to these situations we must be compassionate and wise. There is a call for Christians to do something for those who suffer. However, war is now at such a scale now that the innocent will always suffer. We need to recognise the brokenness of humanity.

 Abbie - What are your views about the death penalty?
MUSLIM: Islamic teaching is very clear.  In Islam the criteria to accuse someone of a crime punishable by death is very high and must reach complete certainty. There is a high price for serious crimes to act as a deterrent. Taking someone's life is obviously something that must be paid for. This is justice.
CATHOLIC: Christianity teaches the sanctity of life. God gives life and only God can take it away. As long as someone is alive there is an opportunity for them to change. They should be made to serve their sentence so that they have the opportunity for reform.
Ellie – But what if someone is a risk to others?

FREE METHODIST: I would say that there needs to be a place to house such people. Killing them is not the answer.          
Ellie – but it’s not very humane to cage someone
BUDDHIST: As a Buddhist I would say it is both a humane and compassionate response and allows the opportunity for change
Ellie – What if they murdered your child?

FREE METHODIST: The bible challenges us to forgive
CATHOLIC: I know of the example of Christian parents whose son was the victim of a gang murder. They went on to work with gangs to try to prevent anything like this from happening again.  They didn't want death penalty because they recognised that the murderer was someone else's son.
In my opinion it can never be right to take a life or institutionalise death.

ANGLICAN: It is in relatively recent times that the death penalty has been abolished in the UK. In my view it is wrong because there is always the possibility of a mistake.
Ellie - What should be the alternative?

BUDDHIST: It’s an alternative view, but as a Buddhist I would say it is not through punishment. People who commit crimes need help and support to stop such actions. They need a combination of help as well as preventing them from doing further harm.
CATHOLIC: As a Christian I would say that some punishment is appropriate to protect people and serves as a penalty for those who do wrong - but reform needs to also be built in.
ANGLICAN:  If people are very disturbed, some of our prisons cater for these people, many of whom could be classed as seriously mentally ill, but also are very dangerous criminals.
MUSLIM: There are illnesses that affect the mind in the same way as there are illnesses that affect the body. These people need treatment. But we need to explore solutions to the problems of society.

Miss Backhouse: What reasons would you give for your belief in God?

BUDDHIST: Buddhists don't believe in a god, although it depends how you define god. We believe that all things are created by our own mind. There is obviously a creator but we must ask who and what this is.
MUSLIM: I believe in a superior creator who is beyond everything. I was born a Muslim, but my faith has grown stronger and stronger throughout life. The Quran contains great knowledge about our world and I see it as a scientific proof of its truth. To me, God is an omnipotent being. The Prophet (pbuh) described god as having 99 names or qualities. These are unchanging.
CATHOLIC: How do you know that you exist? We can't prove our own existence, there is no concrete final proof that we exist, even Descartes couldn’t do that - we need to make a leap of faith. The reasons for my faith in my own existence come from my faith in God. To me there is a God, the source of all that is; the reason for love and our ultimate destiny - but this cannot be proven. You have to have a starting point even to believe in physics. My starting point is my faith in God.
FREE METHODIST: I made a decision to become a Christian at 14. If you go out and look at the night sky you will see the vastness of the universe. Whatever we look at in the world we can ask, is this purely by chance? To me Christianity makes sense as a religion. I feel although I have grown and developed and built a relationship with God. When I worship and pray there is an indescribable sense of God’s presence. I see lives changed by knowing god. To me, this is a form of evidence
ANGLICAN: I would also say that I have a relationship with God. I believe that He is everywhere and that we are made in his image. It is a personal relationship.

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