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We must all learn to explore and share our common history

PETER Kearney presents compelling figures regarding the number of anti- Catholic incidents throughout Scotland and how they are proportional to the size of the Roman Catholic population in a given area rather than to any other factor ("Church: Bigotry fight like US civil rights struggle", The Herald, January 8, and Letters, January 8).

This is not only intolerable in a modern society, it is plain stupid. If Scotland is to prosper in the world we need to utilise the capabilities of every citizen, so to discriminate against some on grounds of religion, or anything else for that matter, harms us all eventually.

In Monday's Herald, the so-called anti-bigotry czar, Duncan Morrow, argued that part of the solution may be to have non-denominational and Catholic schools sharing the same campus so that Catholic children are not looked upon as a different species ("Anti-bigotry czar warns sectarianism is classless", The Herald, January 8). This is all right in theory but in practice it could be a different matter.

Near where I live are two newly-built secondary schools, one denominational, the other non-denominational, sharing the same campus – except that "sharing" does not seem quite the appropriate word for it. Although these two state-funded schools were built at the same time they were opened in different ceremonies, they have different names and different school uniforms. They each have their own playing fields, sports halls, fitness centres, dining halls, teachers and, of course, libraries and classrooms. I gather the only facility they share regularly is the swimming pool; presumably the council jibbed at the cost of providing two.

I can fully understand that Catholic parents wish their children to have an education that strengthens rather than undermines their faith. But to separate children going to school on the same campus from every activity on grounds of their religion can only foster the misunderstandings that reinforce prejudice. Yet it could easily be so different. Playing games together, sharing certain classes such as art where religious differences can hardly intrude and wearing the same uniform would allow friendships to develop between children from different religious backgrounds without threatening anyone's religious upbringing.

Why don't we give it a try?

Dr Ian McKee,

37 Fernielaw Avenue,

Edinburgh.

DUNCAn Morrow is right to acknowledge that Scottish people don't speak about sectarianism and advocate a form of debate that avoids creating a culture of blame. In order to do this, opportunities must be created. When the Church of Scotland marked the 450th anniversary of the Scottish Reformation in 2010, it did so in a muted, respectful and ecumenical way. Notwithstanding the effectiveness of this initiative, we missed a significant opportunity to create debate and discussion throughout the nation about our common but troubled past. Of course, we don't need an anniversary to take such an important initiative. Materials could be produced for ecumenical study between Protestants and Catholics which specifically encourage us to explore our common history together, reflect on the good and the bad in an informed and hospitable environment and, above all, gain a better perspective on our forebears' inheritance, a greater understanding of the sectarian legacy which has scarred our national identity and a deeper respect for our common origins as well as the differing traditions within the Scottish church.

Opportunities could be created within our schools to teach Scottish history with pupils of all faiths and none. In this way, historical prejudices and perceptions would be challenged, analysed and understood in an informed, open and honest way within a truly representative community. Whilst it may be easier to plan such initiatives in joint campuses it would still be feasible to organise other inter-school projects to explore our common history together.

Funding could be made available to explore our divided past in creative ways, to stimulate the nation's imagination and to nourish open-hearted debate. In many ways, this is a less controversial way forward and probably one of the best ways to challenge and change mindsets. My own view of the Roman Catholic Church was enriched recently in the beautiful and scholarly exhibition which Edinburgh University organised on the post-Reformation Wode Psalter. And my ignorance was challenged by the discussion stimulated in the Letters Pages of The Herald about the survival and strength of the Roman Catholic Church in particular areas of Scotland after the Reformation. All of this and more is worth presenting to the nation with imagination, integrity and even joy.

Rev David D Scott,

The Manse, Preston Road, East Linton.

WHILE anti-Catholic bigotry is to be challenged, it would be a pleasant change of pace if occasionally the Catholic leadership accepted that it has been part of the problem, and the solution requires a change in attitude on its behalf. It is hard to accept Peter Kearney's view on Catholic schools, for example, with his comment that bigotry is something learned in the home and the streets and not a product of the education system.

Secularists and indeed many believers disagree with Mr Kearney about denominational and faith-based education. But expressing disagreement with him doesn't make him or every other Catholic in Scotland the victim of persecution.

Alistair McBay,

National Secular Society, 5 Atholl Crescent, Edinburgh.

Peter Kearney's analogy between Scottish Catholicism and the US Civil Rights struggle is plain daft. In the US in the 1960s, much anti-black legislation was written into law, including the insistence on separate education for black and white kids. I would presume that separate education is one aspect of history Mr Kearney agrees with.

Alistair Richardson,

Pelstream Avenue, Stirling.

Perhaps Peter Kearney should be wary of making comparisons with the US. A major plank of the Civil Rights Movement was the abolition of "separate but equal" schooling. Mr Kearney's intentions appear to be somewhat different.

Stephen Low,

59 Calder Street, Glasgow.

PETER Kearney expresses concern about anti-Catholic sentiments throughout Scotland in all sectors of the community. However, his church is not averse to expressing hurtful comments about other sectors of society. The same edition of The Herald reports the former Archbishop of Glasgow, Mario Conti, stating that same-sex marriage is "morally defective" ("Archbishop in warning over same-sex marriage", The Herald, January 8).

Perhaps The Catholic Church should practise more tolerance.

Charles Thompson,

60 Grandtully Drive, Glasgow,

PETER Kearney complains about bigotry. Mario Conti labels same-sex marriage "morally defective". Hello?

Fredi Morrison,

9 Bryce Road, Edinburgh.

REASONED debate about marriage is not aided by misinformation and polemics on the part of the Equality Network. Its spokesman falsely attributes views to Archbishop Conti. It has become commonplace to denigrate those who uphold the traditional understanding of marriage. In a letter in a religious journal Archbishop Conti gave an account of the importance of law and reason in the direction of sexual relationships. He did not write that "gay friends and family members are 'morally defective'" nor did he imply that same-sex relationships should be made illegal.

John Deighan,

Parliamentary Officer, Catholic Parliamentary Office,

5 St Vincent Place, Glasgow.

Contextual targeting label: 
Education

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