Telegraph: People who ‘do God, do good’, says Baroness Warsi

By John Bingham, Religious Affairs Editor

Baroness Warsi will defend the right of Christians, Muslims, Jews and others to publicly practise their faith insisting that “people who do God do good”.

Her comments come in a speech in London marking the first anniversary of a landmark visit to the Vatican by a delegation of ministers in which she claimed that British society is under threat from the rising tide of “militant secularisation”.

It comes as new research lays bare the scale of Britain’s growing dependence on religious groups to meet social needs in the midst of recession.

Churches alone are providing almost 100 million hours of unpaid volunteer work on social projects a year, up by more than a third in two years, while donations for such work are up by a fifth, it found.

Lady Warsi, a practising Muslim, will tell a meeting in the Houses of Parliament that faith groups can “reach areas of need that Government cannot”.

Her comments echo a call last month by the new Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, for churches to step in and do things which the state has “run out of the capacity to do”.
He said the financial crisis could signal the “greatest moment of opportunity since the Second World War” for churches to grow.

Lady Warsi, who combines a ministerial role in the Foreign Office with being Britain’s first minister for faith, will say that she went to meet Pope Benedict last year “to tell the world that Britain does do God”.

She will say: “There is one big reason why I made the case for faith that day … and why, I have made freedom of religion and belief a priority, and that’s that people who do God do good.

“In other words, very often faith is the basis for good deeds. It influences, it inspires, it impels at every turn.”

In a reference to the recent European Court of Human Rights cases involving attempts to ban workers from wearing crosses, she will add: “We may see the manifestation of faith as a crucifix around a neck, or a spire on a skyline – which of course it is.

“But too often we overlook the practical manifestation of faith: the mother and toddlers groups, the school assemblies, the fundraiser days, the 98 million hours churchgoers spend volunteering each year.

“For me, that’s the most powerful manifestation of faith: The collective demonstration of people’s individual beliefs.

“It reminds for of something the ever-sage Lord Singh [leader of the Network of Sikh Organisations] said to me: that faith reaches areas of need that Government cannot.

“It is what churches, synagogues, temples and mosques have been doing since time immemorial.”

The Baroness will be speaking at the publication of the annual “Church and Community Involvement” survey.

It will show that despite the economic situation, church members alone have increased their donations to social action projects by 19 per cent in two years to £342 million.

In an article published on today the Baroness speaks about her visit to Rome last year describing how the Pope put her and other nervous ministers at their ease and arguing that Britain’s current relations with the Holy See are better than at any point for centuries.

She adds: “The Pope’s decision to step down was, I’m sure, not taken at all lightly and would have been done so after much consideration and prayer.

“He seemed frail last year and his declining health must have been hard to bear given the weight of his duties.”