On Sunday 30 October, live from The Well, Retford, Notts, BBC Radio 4 broadcast Sunday Worship marking the work of Thomas Helwys, one of the earliest campaigners for freedom of religious conscience. Appropriately for this All Saints Day, the programme explored the work of those who advocate for freedom of religion or belief across the world today and highlighting the role of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for International Freedom of Religion or Belief.
Leaders: Baroness Berridge of the Vale of Catmose, the Revd John Brewster.
Preacher, The Revd Anthony Peck, General Secretary of the European Baptist Federation.
Last Thursday was International Religious Freedom Day and this coming Tuesday is All Saints when, amongst others, we remember those who have been killed because of their Christian faith. And so today is a very appropriate Sunday for us to thank God for our religious freedom.
The area around the town of Retford could claim to be the birthplace of religious freedom. The seventeenth century local hero Thomas Helwys was the first person to write in the English Language effectively what we now know as Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights: the freedom to choose your own religion, or to not have any religion at all, and to live out that decision publicly. Helwys was put in prison and died there for claiming religious freedom for all. The freedom we enjoy today to worship is indeed part of Helwys’ legacy.