Orthodox good will reflects our Scottish diversity - Alastair Stewart

There's a curious absence on many politicians' Twitter feeds. January 7 is Orthodox Christmas and Friday 14 New Year. Like their December counterparts, both days are about family, getting together and celebrating.

By The Newsroom
Monday, 17th January 2022, 10:53 am
Alastair Stewart is a freelance writer and public affairs consultant.
Alastair Stewart is a freelance writer and public affairs consultant.

Orthodox celebrations fall later because Orthodox churches follow the Julian calendar and Western Christianity the Gregorian.The first minister, government ministers, opposition leaders and council leaders in Scotland have neglected this, as they do at Easter time and other holidays/celebrations across the year.

Despite the frenetic disaster of 10 Downing Street, only the prime minister's official Twitter and Facebook channels offer a Merry Orthodox Christmas.

He is joined by a handful of backbench MSPs and MPs who offer their season's greetings.As the last census reveals, Scotland is a multireligious and multicultural society. The 2011 census includes 291,275 people who identify as "other Christian". There is no precise figure for Orthodox numbers in Scotland.

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The omission is strange. There are a plentitude of expressions and messages, statements and videos of goodwill for Scotland's many faiths from leading political figures and parties over the year.It is possible leading government ministers, officials, MSPs, councillors and their staff do not know about Orthodox holidays. This is plausible, for it was only on my periphery before marrying into an Orthodox family through my wife.

But this seems unlikely, particularly if representatives have Orthodox churches in their constituencies like Edinburgh's St Andrew's Orthodox Church.

Eastern Orthodoxy is one of the three major doctrinal and jurisdictional groups of Christianity alongside Roman Catholicism and Protestantism. The Orthodox Church is one of the largest Christian branches worldwide.

It is more likely that because a habit has not formed to acknowledge these occasions, and because there has been no great clamour for it among Orthodox followers, it has simply fallen to the wayside.Here is the ask, now.

The Scottish government and political party messaging are committed to respecting faiths and cultures. This is especially important for those who have chosen to make their life in Scotland.A pre-recorded message, a tweet, or a Facebook post are not big asks but very symbolic ones to those reading them. It increases awareness and tolerance.

Relevant constituency MSPs may wish to go further with a parliamentary motion, a simple task usually assigned to a team member.

The omission should be rectified and is an easy fix. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau struck the right tone when he issued a message saying: "On this day, we also recognize the important contributions that Orthodox Christians and Eastern Rite Catholics make to help build a better, fairer, and more inclusive Canada for everyone."

Boris Johnson's message was more straightforward, wishing a Merry Christmas to Orthodox Christians. It is no less important - generic does not mean tokenistic.

It is not a numbers game, either. Knowing that some people abide by these faiths is cause enough to hope our elected leaders will acknowledge their many traditions and holidays throughout the year.Some incorporation of Orthodox holidays into government and ministerial messaging would be appropriate.

It would be a respectful and encouraging step to better reflect Scotland's special multifaith and multicultural status.

Alastair Stewart is a freelance writer and public affairs consultant