HL Deb 29 November 1950 vol 169 cc604-52

2.42 p.m.

THE LORD ARCHBISHOP OF YORK rose to ask His Majesty's Government to bring before the United Nations Organisation the persecution of religion in Communist-controlled States; and to move for Papers. The most reverend Primate said: My Lords, at the beginning of this century religious persecution seemed to be a past evil in all civilised countries. Speaking for my own Church, I must acknowledge with profound sorrow that it was a long time before we understood how completely religious persecution in any shape or form was contrary to the whole spirit of Christianity; therefore, because of our faults in this matter, it is all the more incumbent upon us to take our stand to-day with the persecuted and against those who persecute.

In the last thirty or forty years there have been three waves of persecution over the world. First, there was the persecution in Russia in the years after the Russian Revolution. It is impossible to say how many bishops, priests and laity of the Orthodox Church suffered during that time. Hardly any Church has ever had to pass through such a severe ordeal as the Orthodox Church of Russia during those days of bitter persecution. During the war, however, the persecution of the Orthodox Church ceased. So far as I know—and I think I am well informed on this point—there is no persecution of the Russian Orthodox Church at the present time, and, in fact, that Church receives a certain amount of support from the Government. I believe—though here I speak with less certainty—that there is no persecution of the Baptists in Russia, who have a small but quite a flourishing Church. The second wave of persecution was in Germany under Nazi rule. During the occupation of countries by the German Armies, large numbers of Roman Catholics and Orthodox priests, as well as ministers of reformed religion, were either murdered or sent to the concentration camps. During that time there took place the most horrible persecution which Christianity has ever known—the persecution which aimed at the complete extermination of the Jews, both for their race and for their religion.

Since the war there has been a rise in the tide of persecution in most of the Communist States. This, I think, is inevitable, for Marxian Communism and Christianity are diametrically opposed. Marxian Communism is materialistic through and through, and denies that there is any law higher than that either of the Party or of the State, while the Christian believes that there is an absolute law of justice binding at all times and in all places. Therefore, there is bound to be collision between materialistic Communism and the practice and teaching of the Christian Church. This persecution aims at destroying Christianity completely, but as in most cases that seems quite impracticable, it aims alternatively at reducing the Churches into a position of subservience to the Communist Party. To realise the extent and deliberate nature of this persecution, it must be viewed as a whole. Isolated incidents and events can be explained away. The arrest and condemnation of individuals can be explained as due to considerations of national safety. Laws confiscating property can be explained as part of social reform, and so on. But when a picture is formed of the persecuted countries; as a whole, when the various events are all put in due proportion, then I think it becomes quite plain that in various countries like Poland, Hungary, Bulgaria, Roumania and Czechoslovakia there is now being carried on a deliberate policy of organised persecution. No one can doubt that if they read the carefully documented study by Mr. J. B. Barron and Mr. H. M. Waddams, called Communism and the Churches, which contains a large number of official documents concerning those various States.

There are five main lines of attack. First, there is the Press and radio campaign against the bishops and clergy as agents of the capitalist States and as reactionaries. We have to remember that words have very different meanings here from those they bear in a Communist State. None of us here minds very much being called a reactionary, for we under- stand that it is simply an old-fashioned rhetorical device used by a speaker to reassure himself of his own progressive-ness and to cover an argument which he knows is weak. But it. is very different in a Communist Stats. To call a person a' reactionary there brings him at once into the danger of arrest and imprisonment. Various charges of this kind are brought repeatedly, week after week and month after month, against the bishops and the clergy. The Press and the radio are the monopoly of the State, and in most of the Communist States all church publications and all ecclesiastical printing presses have been suppressed or are severely censored. It is impossible, therefore, for the Churches to make any kind of reply to the attacks which are perpetually being nude upon them. Not only are these attacks made through the Press and the ratio, but groups of Communists in the various countries are directed as to how best they may stir up feeling against the Churches. For instance, in July, 1948, a directive was issued to local Communist groups in Czechoslovakia, among others, which contained the following instructions: (1) The Vatican. You are to undermine the authority of the Vatican by all means, especially by attacks in the Press, compromising articles and news Items. (2) To break down unity among the clergy, separate higher from he lower clergy, drive a wedge between bishops and clergy, also between the priests and their parishes. (7) Attack the Catholic Church with all the usual weapons: celibacy, economic questions, the Church as a capitalistic institution, moral delinquents, etc. This kind of propaganda is being carried on persistently in these Communist-domineered countries.

This prepared the way for the second attack: the suppression of all schools owned by the Church, their taking over by the State, and a refusal to allow religious teaching in them except at the express wish of the parents. Even where optional teaching is allowed, great pres-sure is brought upon the parents to pre-vent them from using it. For instance, in Czechoslovakia a campaign was started last June to persuade Communist members to forbid their children to receive religious instruction. In Hungary Mr. Ravai, the Minister of Popular Culture, is reported as saying: I warn everyone to brand as a reactionary and to ostracise anyone who, in spite of our work of enlightenment, sends his child to a religious class. Where there have been definite religious teachers, in most cases they have been dismissed. In Poland quite recently 500 priest-teachers have been dismissed. In Poland, where in the past there was religious teaching in all the schools, now in over 1,000 of those schools there is no religious teaching whatsoever. It has also to be remembered that the secular teaching in these schools is based on Marxian and Leninist philosophy of a purely material foundation. The teachers who give this teaching are carefully chosen from those who are sound in Marxian views. A teacher who does not hold these views is liable to dismissal at any time, and certainly has no possible hope of promotion. They are intended to teach the views to the children and gradually to win over the children to an atheistic outlook.

I venture to quote once again. In the Russian official gazette for teachers a writer explains the task of the teacher— and I imagine that what is true for the teacher in Russia is true for a Communist teacher elsewhere—as follows: A Soviet teacher must be guided by the principle of the Party spirit of science; he is obliged not only to be an unbeliever himself. but also to be an active propagandist of Godlessness among others, to be the bearer of ideas of militant proletarian atheism. Skilfully and calmly, tactfully and persistently, the Soviet teacher must expose and overcome religious prejudices in the course of his activity in school and outside school, day in and day out. Not only is this campaign militant among those schools which we should call the primary schools, but in almost all these countries the universities and colleges, which in some cases belong to the Church or are under the influence of the Church, have been taken over by the State. In future, the professors and tutors are to be appointed by the State, and even the students are to be carefully selected so that those who are chosen hold views in accordance with "the planned economic, social and cultural needs of the State."

The first line of attack is on the property of, and on all institutions connected with, the Church. I will not dwell on the attack on property. The agrarian estates have been taken away from the Churches, and in many cases the clergy and ecclesiastics of various kinds have been reduced to penury. In some cases the State has promised to pay their stipends but, of course, by accepting that situation the clergy put themselves entirely at the mercy of the State. I am not dwelling on that, because it might be argued that this is part of a great reform in the holding of land, but all institutions in connection with the Church have gradually been taken over by the State. Not only has there been this confiscation of Church lands, but hospitals, infirmaries, almshouses and homes for the aged have been appropriated by the State. In the last few months the great charitable society "Caritas," which has done the most wonderful work, not only in Poland but elsewhere, has been threatened by the State in Poland. I am not sure what the actual position is with regard to that Society at the present time; there was some attempt at a compromise in connection with it.

The Primate of Poland in a recent letter (I think it was last September) to the President of the State protesting about the way in which the State was treating the Church said: The Magdalene Sisters in Plock were re-moved from their home with their bundles in one hour, without pity for ailing old pensioners., only because they did not sign the peace appeal. Here may I digress for a moment? One of the things which has struck me most greatly in reading recent papers from these Communist States is the way in which the refusal to sign the so-called peace petition has been made an excuse for active persecution. In some cases refusal to sign has been followed by dismissal from the post the man was holding and by threats of prosecution. But, to return to the Primate's letter, he went on: The Sisters of Mercy in the hospital at Warsaw in which they have worked with great devotion for more than 200 years have been removed from their work and residence. A concentrated attack has been made upon all the religious Orders, In April, 1950, ten abbots and priors in Czechoslovakia were sentenced to long terms of imprisonment. They were accused of high treason, of spying, of concealing arms for revolution, and so on, in their monasteries. Most of the religious houses in Czechoslovakia have been confiscated and they have been turned into flats or Gov- ernment offices. Their inmates have been sent to forced labour in what are called "concentration monasteries." Here, according to reports from them, they have to work a large number of hours in the grounds, and after luncheon they have to listen for two hours to lectures on Marxian philosophy. In Hungary, on the night of June 9 of this year sudden raids were made on convents and monasteries, and their inmates were taken away in sealed vans. On September 7 a decree dissolved fifty-nine Orders, with more than 10,000 religious. All monasteries were to be evacuated in three months. Four teaching Orders were exempted under an agreement which was reached between the Bishops and the State, though it is very doubtful whether that agreement will be carried out. The Primate of Poland, from whom I have already quoted, speaks about the way in which the monastic Orders there are terminated by arrests and numerous campaigns of investigation. They are living in a position of exceptional depression. In all these countries there are to be found thousands of religious, both monks and nuns, who. penniless, are finding any refuge wherever they can, when they are not sent to some of these concentration monasteries.

Then the next line of attack. Legislation has been passed, or decrees have been issued, to bring the Churches into complete subordination to the State. Some of these decrees (I think most of them) open with the formula that The State guarantees freedom of religion and conscience. Here are two examples of the new constitutions. In February of last year, the Rumanian Government were given power to supervise and control all religious groups and their affairs, even including religious art. In Czechoslovakia, the previous assent of the State is required before anyone performs spiritual duties. A specially appointed Minister has been given full control of all ecclesiastical appointments; and not only that, district committees have been set up with wide powers over religious teaching, societies and property. This summer, only two or three months ago, a law was passed in Czechoslovakia inflicting severe penalties on any priest or minister who performs any pastoral function without the consent of the State. These laws and decrees also aim at the isolation of the Churches, of the Roman Catholic Church from the Vatican, and of the Protestant Churches from their supporters in America and elsewhere.

Then there comes the final line of attack. The Communist States attempt to deprive the Churches of leadership by direct persecution of the bishops and priests, and by intimidation of the laity. The Cardinal-Archbishop of Hungary is in prison for life. Archbishop Beran of Prague, one of the most remarkable men I have ever met, a man of great goodness and wisdom, has been confined to his palace for many months, without trial. Recently, two other bishops have been arrested' by the Czechoslovakian Government. When I visited Prague shortly before the revolution, I met the then Prime Minister (who is now President), Mr. Gottwald. He had been told that one of the English papers had accused his country of persecution. In the most emphatic way he denied that there was any persecution of any sort or kind in Czechoslovakia. Two or three days later, I saw President Benes. He also had heard this report and in the most emphatic way denied that there was any such persecution. I am not repeating any private conversations, because in both cases I was asked to make this plain when I returned to England. That was plain at the time, but it is untrue now In Czechoslovakia, as in these other countries, there is continuous persecution against the bishops and the Church. Hundreds of priests in Czechoslovakia have been imprisoned for their religion. The bishops are confined to their houses and are not allowed to officiate, while most of their secretaries have been arrested.

Last week The Times had a most interesting article upon the relationship between Church and State in Poland. It made some reference to the letter from the Primate of Poland, from which I have already quoted. The Primate of Poland in that letter complains of the large numbers of priests under surveillance, arrested and imprisoned without trial, or sentenced to many years of penal servitude. To the amazement and alarm of the faithful, many priests are taken straight from the churches, from the confessional, from the midst of a group of children awaiting confession. Surveillance does not fail to embrace the bishops, who during their pastoral travels, at congresses and visitations, are surrounded by dozens of Government agents. Somewhat striking figures about those persecutions were given the other day in one of the Vatican's papers. I have not been able to check them and therefore I quote them with some reserve. It was stated that in Roumania at least 700 priests had been put to death. In Hungary up to the beginning of June, 538 priests had been executed, imprisoned, or deported. In Czechoslovakia, there are at least 300 priests in prison, Roman Catholic organisations have been dissolved, schools closed, and religious teaching suppressed in the State schools.

So far, I have been dealing with the persecution of the Roman Catholic Church. The brunt of the persecution falls upon that Church, because it is offering the clearest resistance to the claims of the Communists, and also because it is by far the largest Church in those countries. But it would be a mistake to think that the Protestant Churches have escaped persecution. They are few in number, but they have been carrying on very useful and vigorous religious work, and they also have come under persecution. In Bulgaria, forty pastors were arrested out of a comparatively small number of Protestant pastors there. Fifteen of them were tried and sentenced to long terms of imprisonment. Our Government made a strong protest against the way in which those trials were conducted. In Hungary the Lutheran Bishop Ordass was sentenced to two years' imprisonment, and quite recently in Czechoslovakia the Salvation Army has been disbanded, its property confiscated and two of its officers imprisoned. I have made some inquiries about the position of the Jews. I gather that there is no active persecution in any of these countries at this moment, but some of the leaders of the Jewish Church, by one method or another, have been persuaded to resign, and Communist rabbis have been appointed in their place. I am not able to give any account of the persecutions in Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia. The cruelties committed there are successfully concealed by the iron curtain. I have said enough, however, to show that there is widespread, deliberate and continued persecution in the Communist-dominated States.

How are the Churches under persecution facing this ordeal? Some two or three years ago, I was asking an Arch-bishop (now dead) of a State in which there was persecution, how he and his people were facing it. He gave me rather an unexpected answer. He said: "We are facing it by prayer, by endurance and by silence." It is true to say that all these Churches are facing the position in a spirit of prayer. I am told that the Churches have never been so crowded as they are now in some of these countries where persecution is rife, and certainly they are facing the position with endurance. Many of them are suffering in great silence. I want to explain, also, that they are facing the position with a readiness, where necessary and where it is legitimate, to compromise.

From time to time your Lordships have read of agreements between the bishops of this or that country and the State, or of agreements which have been made be-tween the Protestant Churches and the State. In the circumstances in which these Churches are placed, some com-promise is quite inevitable if the Churches are to survive. We have no right to criticise the Churches or the bishops for attempting to enter into some agreement with the State. It has been attempted in Poland, Hungary and even, to a limited extent, in Czechoslovakia, where the clergy were authorised by the bishops to take an oath of loyalty to the State with a certain amount of mental reservation. The point I want to make is this: that, while in my opinion these Churches are perfectly right in trying to make some kind of compromise with the Government which will enable them to survive, in no case have the Orthodox, the Roman Catholic or the Protestant Churches compromised on any matter of principle connected either with worship or with faith. I am perfectly certain that the bishops and the clergy of these Churches would face martyrdom rather than com-promise on vital matters of worship or of faith.

In conclusion, I pass to the reference in my Motion to the United Nations Organisation. I think this is clearly a matter which should be referred to the United Nations. In the Charter of Human Rights, which has been accepted by U.N.O., though there is no covenant enforcing it, it is stated in Article 18: Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion: this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom either alone or in community with others, and in public or in private to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance. These rights are most clearly denied by States who are now members of U.N.O. It would therefore be fitting if U.N.O. inquired into this charge and endeavoured to persuade the States responsible for persecution to abandon it, and, if necessary, to censure them for this policy of persecution. I recognise that it may be impossible or undesirable in the immediate future to bring this question before U.N.O., which is already overburdened with matters of momentous importance. Moreover, I am given to understand that a considerable time might have to elapse before this matter could possibly come before U.N.O. I believe that the next Session is not due to be held until next summer. If that should be the case, I hope that at any rate the Government will make it quite clear, that in the name of this nation they condemn this barbarous policy of persecution. I hope that from all sides of this House—indeed, I am confident that this will be the case —we shall give expression to the abhorrence with which our nation regards religious persecution, and our profound and deep sympathy for those who are now suffering for their faith. I beg to move for Papers.

3.12 p.m.


My Lords, I greatly regret that, owing to what is, I hope, only a temporary indisposition, my noble leader, Lord Salisbury, is unable to take part in this debate to-day. But certainly we should wish that from these Benches there should come an immediate response to the moving speech which the most reverend Primate has made, and to assure him that we are entirely at one with him in all he has said. There is little that one can add to that comprehensive and moving speech; accustomed as we are today to horrors and atrocities, the tragedy which he has pictured for us has shocked the conscience of the whole civilised world, both on its scale and in its detail. On the authority of a most detailed report prepared by the Vatican to which the most reverend Primate referred—and I think chapter and verse were given for practically everything referred to therein—something like 11,000 priests and monks have been either killed, imprisoned or exiled in countries behind the iron curtain. My Lords, what a travesty of the freedom of faith and freedom from fear!—though indeed those men have shown no fear in suffering and dying for their faith.

I think the most sinister feature of all in this persecution is that the ultimate target is always the young. The determination is that the younger generation shall be, made in the dictator's image and know not God. In the Baltic States one of the first actions of the Soviet regime was not only to suppress religious teaching and prayers in all schools but to prohibit every kind of religious work among the young. This suppression can be matched in every other country behind the iron curtain. In spite of President Gottwald's protestation, in Czechoslovakia to-day it is reported that 90 per cent, of the country parishes are with out priests. I would entirely endorse what the most reverend Primate has said, that we in no way condemn the leaders of the Churches in trying to make some compromise under which they can carry on their work, remembering always that in any compromise they have been prepared to make it would be a compromise which renders fully to Cæsar the things that are Cesar's, but would still enable them to render to God the things that are God's. That is very different from some other compromises. In this horrid business I think perhaps the most despicable people are the puppet prelates, who prostitute their priesthood and their faith in the service of anti-Christ. I cannot forbear to say that I think most, of your Lordships would put in that category the Dean of Canterbury, who in this matter I hope and believe has few, if any, fellow travellers in the ministers of any denomination in this country.

It is not altogether easy to see what can be done, but one thing certainly can be done. Do not let us underrate the value of a confession of faith, such as the most reverend Primate has pronounced, in the free Parliaments of the free countries of the world. So far as ex-enemy countries are concerned, they undoubtedly are bound by their Peace Treaties to secure the enjoyment of human rights and the fundamental freedoms, including freedom of religious worship. Be it remembered always that Russia, who now instigates and enforces the suppression of religious freedom, was a joint author of those Treaties. Whether these crimes fall textually within the terms of the Charter I do not know; but certainly there is abun- dant proof of the violation of some of the fundamental principles on which the United Nations and all it stands for are based. My Lords, I am sure that what-ever the Government can do they will do, and it is right that we in this, the freest of all Parliaments, should express our abhorrence and detestation of this persecution and our deep sympathy with its victims.

3.19 p.m.


My Lords, I feel we ought to be extremely grateful to the most reverend Primate for bringing forward this Motion to-day. I think that the great mass of the citizens of this country do not realise the persecution that is and has been going on for years past in the countries to which the Motion refers. I do not see how they can. Unfortunately, the newspapers cannot give much prominence to matters of that kind, owing to difficulties of space. That is the reason why I believe there is considerable ignorance of what is happening. Perhaps the debate this afternoon in your Lordships' House will stimulate attention and will concentrate public interest on the tragedy that is taking place in the countries referred to in the Motion.

It is true, as the most reverend Primate has said, that the main attack is being made on Roman Catholics and on Roman Catholicism. But although the Church to which I have the privilege to belong is the main target to-day, the ultimate aim is clearly the destruction of Christianity in those countries. We British are a tolerant and a kindly people. There are things which, when they happen at home, arouse our indignation and our anger. I have particularly in mind the ill-treatment of and cruelty to children. But when the ordinary man and woman hears of persecution of the kind that is going on in Communist-controlled States, I rather fear that he or she is inclined to think, or even to say—perhaps with a shrug of the shoulders—" Oh, well, things cannot really be as bad as that." My Lords, they are as bad as that. In fact, they are much worse.

I should like to deal for a few minutes with each of these Communist countries in turn. I shall try not to repeat what the most reverend Primate has said, but I wish to speak for a moment or two about these countries from the Roman Catholic standpoint. As they are countries which take their directives from Soviet Russia, I think it is worth our while to devote a few minutes to looking at what the position there really is. The attitude of the Soviet State towards religion was formulated by Lenin as early as 1905. He wrote: The State should not be concerned with religion nor should religious societies be linked with State authority. Every person should be completely free to profess whatever religion he pleases or to profess no religion at all—to be an atheist, which every sort of Socialist ordinarily is. No distinction whatever is to be made between citizens in respect of their rights as dependent upon their religious faiths. Your Lordships will see that there is still some acknowledgment of religious freedom in those remarks, even though Lenin clarified them later in that notorious and rather infamous passage which ran: Religion is opium for the people. Religion is a sort of spiritual moonshine "— bad, home-made liquor— in which the slaves of capital drown their human figure, their demands for every sort of worthy human life. I hasten to add that I do not apply Lenin's thesis about Atheism and Socialism to any noble Lord opposite. But that was the attitude of Lenin and he was the arch-priest of Communism— though "arch-priest" is probably not the right word. Naturally his followers took the same line and, like all followers, they exaggerated it. So the campaign against religion was intensively pursued in Russia. Nevertheless the two Constitutions, the 1918 Constitution and the Stalin Constitution of 1936, conceded freedom of conscience and freedom of religious and anti-religious propaganda on behalf of all citizens. Indeed, the Stalin Constitution of 1936 stated that: Freedom for religious cults to function and freedom for anti-religious propaganda are con-ceded on behalf of all citizens. In his publication of 1948 on the laws of the Soviet State, Mr. Vyshinsky added: For the first time in the world, the basic law of a State confirmed freedom of religious and anti-religious propaganda, without which genuine freedom of conscience is impossible. I know that some of those who defend the Soviet line as regards religion plead that the Orthodox Church in the early days had been a great supporter of the Tsarist regime, and that therefore it was necessary that it should be rooted out. But even if any defence of that kind were valid, it became completely inapplicable in later circumstances. In 1941, when Soviet Russia was invaded by the Axis troops, the Soviet Government called for the co-operation of every element within its territories. That call was answered by the patriotism, devotion and loyalty of the Russian peoples and Churches. During the war, as the most reverend Primate has pointed out, the attitude of the Russian Government towards religion and towards the Churches in Russia certainly became more favourable. M. Maisky, speaking in London in 1941, said: In general there is considerable variety in the religious life of the Soviet Union, and no obstacles are put in the way of their activities as long as they remain in their natural sphere of their human conscience and faith. But this moderation did not last for long. After the defeat of the Axis forces and the complete liberation of Russia, it would have seemed natural that the loyalty of the Churches should be recognised and the exercise of their religious freedom fully accepted. There could row be no question of the Churches being dangerous supporters of the ancient regime. And yet nothing of the sort happened, at any rate so far as the Roman Catholic community in Russia and in the territories which Russia acquired was concerned. In 1945 and 1946 coercive measures were taken against the Greek Catholic Church— commonly called the Uniat Church—in the two territories of Galicia and Sub-Carpathian Ruthenia which now form part of the Ukrainian Soviet Republic. In Galicia, the Uniats numbered about 4,500,000 and in Sub-Carpathia some 575,000. The entry of the Russian armies into these territories was followed by a determined attempt to compel the clergy and people to change their ecclesiastical allegiance from Rome to the Orthodox Church of Russia. By far the greater part of the Uniat bishops were imprisoned or exiled, and the Ukrainian Soviet Republic decreed in June, 1945, that in the absence of bishops—who had been, as I say, imprisoned or exiled—the entire Greek Catholic Church would be administered by a committee of three. This was followed by the so-called Assembly of the Church at Lvov, which in March. 1946, addressed a resolution to Marshal Stalin to the effect that they had decided to abolish the union with the Vatican established in 1546 and re-turn to the Russian Orthodox Church. I do not wish to say anything hard about people of other denominations, but I do deplore the fact that in this particular instance the leaders of the Orthodox Church acted as protagonists of Russian Communist policy. They accepted as genuine this resolution, which was secured under pressure of every kind.

The most reverend Primate has mentioned the Baltic States. I would say only one word about Lithuania. I was in Lithuania before the war. It was a strongly Roman Catholic country. The majority of its priests have now been de-ported to Russia. Nor has the violence of the anti-religious crusade in Russia in any way diminished. In fact, I am inclined to think that recently it has in-creased. The same personality which the most reverend Primate has quoted, M. Oleshcuck, an important figure in the Party Central Committee in the department of Propaganda., states quite definitely in the course of a long diatribe against the people who try to reconcile Communism with religion: Communism and religion are incompatible and irreconcilable. That is his view, and I think it is the view of the Russian authorities. The most reverend Primate quoted other opinions from "The Task of the Teacher", an article written by the same man, and I will not weary your. Lordships with any further quotations. I think the conclusions are too obvious.

I have devoted some time to the position of Soviet Russia, because I think it is clear that the other countries behind the iron curtain follow and try to do better than the Soviet example. Let me take shortly these other countries First there are the countries with which we signed Treaties of Peace-Bulgaria, Hungary and Roumania. The noble Viscount, Lord Swinton, quoted the clause in these Treaties of Peace guaranteeing the fundamental human rights. In February, 1949, a further law was passed concerning the Churches which began with the usual Article; Freedom of conscience and belief is guaranteed to all citizens of the People's Republic of —in this case—Bulgaria. Yet in 1949, as the most reverend Primate pointed out, fifteen Protestant pastors of the United Evangelical Church, which had links with America, were tried and condemned for espionage and illegal currency dealings. The British Government made strong pro-test at the time, but in vain. In Hun-gary, which is predominantly a Roman Catholic country, Cardinal Mindszenty was sentenced in 1949 to life imprisonment. Many monasteries have been closed, and the priests and monks are being made to work in forced labour camps, in the mines and in factories. In Roumania, all the Roman Catholic schools were, by decree, made State institutions. The Uniat Church there, which had about 1,700,000 adherents, was brought to an end by a decree in 1948, and by far the greater part of the Catholic congregations and societies, charitable and otherwise, were dissolved, although the Roman Catholics numbered about 1,500,000. These are the three countries with which we have Treaties of Peace, and these are the methods by which the fundamental human rights clauses in those Treaties are carried out.

Now a word about persecution in countries with which we have no Treaties of Peace and where, therefore, we have much less ground for protest. In Albania, the Archbishop of Durazzo has been condemned to twenty years' imprisonment. All the bishops and over 700 priests have been arrested. In Czechoslovakia, all Roman Catholic schools have been closed and all Catholic newspapers banned, and numbers of religious organisations have been dissolved. Most of the monasteries have been shut, and the monks and nuns moved into so-called "concentration monasteries." Archbishop Beran, who was imprisoned by the Nazis during the war, has for well over a year been confined to his palace in Prague. In Poland, a bitter anti-Church campaign is raging. I think I am correct in saying that the great Roman Catholic social and charitable organisation, Caritas, has actually been seized, and it is estimated that over 1,000 priests have been executed or incarcerated without trial.

Lastly, there is Yugoslavia, and here, I am sorry to say, the persecution of the Roman Catholics has been particularly virulent. It began before Marshal Tito came to power, but has continued under his regime. Since the end of the war. 200 priests have been executed, and some 1,700 sentenced to terms of imprisonment. I think it is only fair to say that in the early stages before Marshal Tito, and even at the beginning of his rule perhaps, political considerations and events entered very largely into the severe strife going on, particularly in Croatia. But, however that may be, the ultimate result was that at the beginning of this year, out of 1,916 parishes, fewer than 400 were left with a priest at their head. Archbishop Stepinac is serving a term of sixteen years, and yet no valid reason has been given for his imprisonment.

To sum up, according to recent in-formation from Rome, up to the middle of this year about 10.000 priests and members of religious Orders have been murdered, imprisoned or deported in the Communist-controlled countries. That signifies a terrible persecution of believers in Christianity. My figures have referred only to priests and members of religious Orders, but what about the believing laity? They have been largely deprived of their spiritual chiefs, and they are being made to suffer in many ways. I am sure that in a sense the present persecution is worse than the wicked persecutions by Hitler. His were mainly racial; this is mainly religious. It is true that there are, so far as I know, no gas chambers—these people think that the human material is too valuable to lose —but there are the mines, forced labour and the concentration camps. There is a constant fear of that dread tap on the shoulder which means that the person who is tapped disappears. There is the withdrawal of the ration card, by which a family can be deprived of all food. Every kind of persecution is being exercised.

I hope that I have not wearied your Lordships by giving too many details but I thought it necessary to emphasise the great sweep of this persecution now going on in these Communist countries. The question has been put, rightly, what can we do? Alas! my only reply is that I feel we can do very little. Roumania, Bulgaria and Hungary have already been condemned by the Assembly of the United Nations for violating the human rights laid down in the Peace Treaties. I fear that these countries care very little, if at all, about world public opinion. The truth is that they respect only material force, and so far as I know the condemnation by the Assembly has not changed their attitude in the slightest. When certain financial and economic transactions were being discussed between His Majesty's Government and Hungary, some of us made the suggestion to the Government that negotiations should not be proceeded with so long as the religious persecution in Hungary continued. How-ever, we accepted the strong arguments which His Majesty's Government put for-ward at that time against any such course. But I would ask the Government to bear the point in mind and, should a similar or more favourable opportunity occur, to act upon it. The suggestion would apply not only to Hungary, but to any of the countries which I have mentioned.

In conclusion, I should like to support the proposal of the most reverend Primate, that this matter should again be brought before the United Nations Organisation. By what means that should be done, and at what time, we must leave to His Majesty's Government, as I think the most reverend Primate agrees. But let us, at any rate, show by our public and inter-national actions, that those who are bearing, and bearing most courageously, the brunt of this religious persecution are not forgotten, that we admire their endurance, that we realise their sufferings and that we shall do all that lies in our power to alleviate them and to see that the Universal Declaration of Human Rights approved by the General Assembly of the United Nations in December, 1948, is observed. We must not despair. Christians have often been persecuted. The cry, "The Christians to the lions," was heard in the streets of Rome at the earliest stages of the faith. Yet Christianity has survived, and it cannot but survive. We have that unalterable assurance.

3.42 p.m.


My Lords, I must apologise for arriving late. I was detained at one of the Ministries on a deputation and, therefore, I had not. the advantage of hearing the most reverend Primate's opening of this discussion. I ask to be forgiven if I do not follow along the lines that I gather from the last speaker have been taken by other noble Lords, and do not quote instances of persecution of particular sects and numbers. I should like to deal rather with the underlying principles that are here concerned. I hope I shall not be misunderstood if I say that I think it rests on something more than the persecution of individuals and certain denominations. It is well to remember that there is the underlying principle of the rights and liberties of all human beings, and this should be kept in view in our consideration of this subject. Therefore, I make no apology for reading out an extract: from the International Covenant of Human Rights covering this aspect. It says: Every one shall have the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right shall include freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others ant in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observation. The first thing that moves me in this connection, apart from any religious impulse, is the fact that all through history the fight for religious liberty has been the basis on which all our fights for liberty have been conducted, and that if that is endangered, then the whole of our liberties are endangered. The line of attack is not only that of persecuting people who follow certain lines of thought, but also in the more subtle way which is being practised in some of the countries behind the Iron Curtain. It is many years since I visited Russia, but when I was there I did see forms of religious worship carried on. I went into more than one church, and saw at least a baptism, a marriage and one funeral carried out under religious auspices. At the same time, I also saw that a great deal was being done to cripple and pre-vent any expansion of further knowledge, and this course was being taken rather than a direct and open persecution. That state of affairs, I imagine, has been altered since then, and pressure has been brought to bear a little more heavily. It can be done by puling people on trial, by imprisonment on trumped-up charges, and by alienating and starving whole villages, sending them to forced labour, and things like that. But over all is the underlying thought and teaching that religion itself is a hindrance to all the things that are worth having in human life, and that everything can be obtained by mere material aggrandisement and material progress.

A little while age, when taking part in another debate, I ventured to say that it was inconceivable twenty years ago that we should be discussing a subject like this in your Lordships' House, or in any other Parliament in Europe. At the same time, I ventured also to remark that we are inclined to say that it cannot happen here. I am very doubtful about that. Just now we are making a good deal of progress here and in other countries, but we might stop and think whether, unless we take particular care, it is not better to travel hopefully than to arrive.


Could the noble Lord expound that a little further?


The fundamental doctrine in Russia is that pronounced by Lenin himself—namely: Religion is opium for the people. Religion is a sort of spiritual moonshine in which the slaves of capital drown their human figure, their demands for every sort of worthy human life… They have issued this in the Soviet zone of Germany, and have laid down a number of principles, including the one which says that: Religious teaching may still be given in classrooms but it is only a matter of time until this will be altered. We have there an indication of the line that is being followed. Gradually, by stopping all means of teaching and instruction of the young, religion can be defeated. Article 22 of the Russian Criminal Code says: The teaching of religious belief to young children and persons under age in State or private educational establishments and schools, or violation of the regulations on this subject, is punishable with compulsory labour for a period not exceeding one year. I was asked by my noble friend what I meant by something I said just now. I hope that I shall not offend or be misunderstood when I say that persecution of religion can follow not only on the lines of what one would call purely anti-religious efforts, but also by the oppression of other religions and by trying to force people to follow on one's own lines. What do we mean by "religious persecution"? Does it apply to one sect or expression of belief as opposed to another? I have no hesitation in saying that no freedom of thought, conscience or religion appears to me to reside in that outlook and that point of view. The noble Earl opposite ex-pressed the view that some people had been forced to transfer their allegiance from the Roman Catholic to the Orthodox Church. I notice that a Roman Catholic divine, speaking of the position in Spain, said: The Church cannot demand freedom for herself in one State as a human right and deny it in another State. I read also what the Foreign Minister for Pakistan said with regard to Islam. He said: Islam is a missionary religion. It claims the right and the freedom to persuade any man to change his faith and accept Islam. Surely, he must yield equally to other faiths the free right of conversion. Those are some of the difficulties we are up against, and we can very well be charged by those whom we are accusing that we carry out precisely the same thing on different lines and in a different manner, in order to bring about a certain uniformity of what we conceive to be religious freedom and liberty.

The most reverend Primate has not set us an easy task. I am wholeheartedly in sympathy with everything he has said, and in my condemnation and abhorrence of all that has taken place in the persecution of followers of religions in other countries. But you will not settle that by Acts of Parliament or by votes of the United Nations Assembly. The persecutors are quite obdurate to any public opinion. Regulations and official decrees will not win religious freedom. Laws should, and must, reflect the opinions and sentiments of a substantial majority of the population, and it seems to me that unless we can ourselves, with other Christian nations, bring to bear upon our own people and our own public opinion that amount of instruction and enlightenment which we feel we are quite free to preach to other peoples, we are not likely to make very rapid progress. It seems to me—and I say this with all due respect, preaching as I am unto others—that the task is to implant such desires in the hearts of the people that this debate will do something towards that end. The knowledge that some people are concerned and disturbed about the attack on religious thought and liberty of opinion will help other people to take heart. What I meant just now when the noble Lord, Lord Pakenham, interrupted me, was this. There is just the danger that if this country and other countries get to the point merely of legislating for material aggrandisement and improvement, and forget to do that which depends upon the spiritual, we shall lose the battle in the long run. We have conquered a good many of those things which we have spent our lives in combating, but on looking round we wonder whether we have not sacrificed something else in the effort.

I venture to say, while supporting this Motion wholeheartedly, as I do, and condemning from the point of ordinary humanity the barbarous and wretched things that are being done, that at the same time we have ourselves to consider and learn the lesson that we, too, must show the wider tolerance which we expect others to show. Just as much can be done to destroy religion by forcing on others the impression of a dominant religion and refusing to admit that they have the right of freedom of expression. Therefore, I feel that the whole question turns on our acceptance of the ordinance of the rights of human liberty and conscience and thought; of the right not to follow along ordinary accepted lines, but to be free —as the very Resolution passed by the United Nations itself says—to change and not be forced to follow certain lines because a particular religion happens to be dominant at the moment. I think it behoves all of us to endeavour to show that we are worthy of pointing the way to other people.

3.56 p.m.


My Lords, I gladly support this Motion. There are only three points in the speech of the most reverend Primate upon which I wish to comment. He said that at present there was no persecution of the Orthodox Church in Russia. Of course that is because the Kremlin has got the leaders of the Orthodox Church just where it wants them. If ever they were to try to get off the lead they would be persecuted again all right—and how! He said also that there was some lack of evidence of persecution in the Baltic States. As a matter of fact, I think there is plenty of evidence of genocide on quite a large scale there, including not only priests but teachers as well.

The third point the most reverend Primate made was that which was touched upon by the noble Viscount, Lord Swinton, about the efforts of the persecuted Churches to compromise with their persecutors. It put me in mind of a passage in Tom Brown's Schooldays, which runs something as follows: He never wants anything but what is right and fair; only when you come to settle what is right and fair it is everything he wants and nothing you want. That is the only sort of compromise that one can ever gel with Communism. It is bent on liquidating religion, just as it is bent on launching a Third World War, and it is surely our task to frustrate that. We shall not do so by words alone. It is obvious, I think, that the whole fabric of Christian civilisation is being destroyed before our eyes in large parts of the world, and the chief agent in that is, of course, religious persecution. That in itself should rouse the anger of all sane men, but nowadays indignation is usually perfunctory and short-lived. People glance and nod and bustle by and say: "Well, that is too bad, but we cannot do anything about it." Well, I think we can. There are certain things that we can do. Of course this Motion only suggests a reference to the United Nations, and I am bound to say that I should like to see it somewhat strengthened. There are about half a dozen things we can do, and five of them at least I have already mentioned in this House.

Perhaps your Lordships will forgive if I allude to them again very briefly, because an ensemble of them would amount to the disruption of the Communist cold war machine; and it seems to me that, rather than lose such advantages, the Communists might be disposed towards moderation. In the first place, we can cut down our more vital and important exports to the culprit countries. As I have often pointed out, our exports to them are much more important than their exports to us, and in the case of countries like Hungary (which has been specifically mentioned), as I have explained, we are in a position to hit them a very heavy blow indeed. Your Lordships may remember that a year or so ago there was a particularly bad outbreak of persecution in Czechoslovakia, and there is a vary ugly example of it going on at this very moment. It happened that that was the moment when the Board of Trade concluded a Treaty for expanding our commerce with the culprit country. I protested at that time in this House, and I still protest. I think those things are utterly wrong.

Secondly, of course, we can cut down our diplomatic representation—and when I say "we" I mean all the countries that love freedom; the Western world, in fact, I am the first to recognise the usual futility of such gestures, which have been exemplified in the case of Spain, but here is an abnormal case, because it would be not only a moral gesture but a profitable one. We should be very much better off with-out some at least of the subversive organisations in this country that masquerade as diplomatic missions. Thirdly, we can apply the same maxim to the so-called friendship societies, another topic that I have often mentioned here. They are all hotbeds of sedition, and they are subsidised by the Cominform. It seems most anomalous that we should be protesting against persecution and at the same time allowing or even, in some cases, encouraging professions of friendship towards the persecutors. Fourthly, we can greatly reduce visas to people from the peccant countries. The Government made a beginning of that over the Sheffield Conference. Why should we not in future limit visas to refugees or those engaged in business that is manifestly profitable to this country, or advantageous in some way or other?

Fifthly, we can close down on some of the alien Communist Press in this country. There is no reason whatever, seeing that we are actually at the moment at war with Communism, why we should allow an organ like the New Central European Observer to go on publishing here. Of course, in all these matters, as in the matter of the friendship societies, the Government will say, "We have no powers." I say, "You can take them and you ought to take them." Or take the case of Tass. Tass is the source of the most venomous and subversive lies everywhere, and yet at the present moment it is enjoying diplomatic immunity in this country. It is absolutely crazy to allow that to go on. I protested about that once before here, a full year ago, but Tass is still enjoying those immunities. I think that is quite intolerable. And mark you, my Lords, we have no such organs or institutions in any of the persecuting countries, so that there is no possibility of retaliation. We have all the trumps in this instance, and there is no reason why we should always go to bed with the lot.

Sixthly, there is another point which I have not mentioned before but which I should like to mention to-day. There are many suggestions from various quarters now that a new approach ought to be made to the Kremlin, which is, in fact, the general directorate of persecution. I should hope that some at least of those who have that course in mind would be prepared to add a rider to say that they do not contemplate any accommodation until such horrors as religious persecution and slave labour cease. If anything else is attempted, I warn your Lordships that you will get only what Tom Hughes called the "Brown compromise." I know perfectly well that a great number of people who have in mind these ideas for rapprochement would not look at such a suggestion. One of the mischiefs of Western civilisation has for a long time past been the delusion that somehow politics and humanity can be divorced. In a material age like this there are very few people who will feel much or long about anything.

When I was a child I was often told that Mr. Gladstone had set the country afire by his denunciation of persecutions and atrocities in Turkey; and, being young and innocent. I believed all that. I do not believe it now. I am quite sure he tried, but I am perfectly certain that he never set the country afire. Nothing on God's earth would set this country afire, and that is precisely one of our grave dangers. One of our most urgent security measures is that we should stop preening ourselves on our dispassion. We may die from the atomic bomb; we may also die from moral leucæmia; and the blood-stream of our body politic shows a continual increase in white corpuscles. Here in this Motion is a chance for an antidote.

As the noble Earl, Lord Perth, said, we have frequently complained that some at least of these countries systematically fail in their obligations under the clauses affecting human rights. Why not make a start on them? We have a perfectly good ground for action. Why should not the United Nations, or such members of it as are willing to join, band themselves together in vowing that they will cut down to a rock-bottom minimum their relations with the persecutors so long as the persecution continues? That would be a great act of sanity and sanitation. It would put new heart into the world. Therefore, with all deference, I say that I should like to see "teeth" added to this Motion, and I urge that, whenever it is possible, instructions should be issued to our delegates to propound and press for concrete action which will effectively translate the censure of the civilised world.

4.7 p.m.


My Lords, like other noble Lords, I feel, if I may say so, that the House is greatly indebted to the most reverend Primate for the clear and, if I may say so again, very grim picture which he has given us of the persecution of religion behind the iron curtain. Most of your Lordships probably already knew the facts up to a point, but I think this is the first time in this House that we have ever had a really clear and comprehensive picture of the whole scene, and that is what I regard as so important. We are very grateful to the most reverend Primate for giving us that full and comprehensive survey. I do not think that anybody who has heard the facts that we have heard to-day can be otherwise than shocked and horrified at what has been revealed. I think I should be speaking for all noble Lords if I said that we should all welcome any action which would lead to the termination of this state of affairs.

Now I should like to devote a few minutes to the problem of what, if any, action is to be taken, because it seems to me that that is the most important fact with which we have to deal this afternoon. The noble Lord, Lord Vansittart, has once again put forward a number of suggested remedies in this state of affairs. I do not pretend to know whether or not these remedies would be effective, but I do feel that if we mean what we have been saying this afternoon, if we are really sincere, we ought very seriously again to consider whether we cannot show our sincerity in some rather more effective form. I suggest that the Government should very seriously look into those recommendations. It seems to me fantastic that we should be increasing our trade with these nations who are at the same time perpetrating this kind of thing. So much for the recommendations of the noble Lord.

I should like to turn now to the proposal in the most reverend Primate's Motion. It may be that the Government will still not consider that they can carry out any of the recommendations of the noble Lord, Lord Vansittart, and the question, therefore, is whether or not the Government should protest to U.N.O. about these religious persecutions. At first sight, I agree, it might seem to be little more than a gesture. There is no sanction that I know of available to the United Nations to do anything about these persecutions, or to secure a change of heart on the part of the Soviet Government. The protest cannot have any direct effect—indeed, I suppose there is a risk that by further antagonising the Soviet Government the present persecution may even be intensified. If the most reverend Primate's proposal wore judged on those grounds alone, I personally should not feel convinced that this would necessarily advance the cause which we all have at heart.

However, I believe that there are other considerations as well. The first is that this country has always been a Christian country. The whole of our institutions, and the whole of our way of life, are based upon Christianity. In the past we have been prepared to protest to the Soviet Government and to the United Nations about many other matters, about the treatment of our diplomatic representatives abroad, about the Soviet wives, and so on and so forth. When Christianity, which is fundamental to our whole way of life, is being attacked, are we not to protest? My feeling is that if in the past these other questions were thought sufficiently important to arouse protest, we should certainly protest now, because, after all, Christianity is fundamental to the whole of European civilisation. I agree that it is not our Church which is being attacked, but that is purely geographical good luck. It is also true that other countries, whose religions are more directly involved, might well have taken some action before we did. They have not done so, however, and I cannot see that the fact that they have not done so is any reason why we should hold back. After all, it is not a question of one Church or one creed against another creed. It is Christendom that is being attacked, and I think we should give a lead in this matter.

I believe that there is a good deal to be gained by publicity. The most reverend Primate, and, I think, the noble Earl, Lord Perth, both said that in their opinion there was far too little knowledge about what is happening. I am sure they are right. For example, outside the iron curtain countries there are a number of perfectly sincere professing Christians who are also professing Communists. The Dean of Canterbury is certainly one. There is no question of their sincerity and I imagine that they see in the ideal of Communism a classless society in which all are equal, and in which all share according to the common ownership of the means of production and distribution—the modern counterpart of the life of the early Christian church. There are a number of people who share that view, and as a result they believe that there is some affinity between Communism and Christianity. I believe, however, that there is no affinity whatsoever between Marxist Communism and Christianity. A number of quotations have been given by noble Lords to-day to prove that that is so, but I believe that in argument words are never so effective as actions. After what we have heard to-day of the actions and the deeds being perpetrated in those countries behind the iron curtain, surely no intelligent man could believe that Soviet Communism and Christianity have anything in common—indeed, the very opposite is the case. I believe that it is because the Soviet Government see in Christianity the only faith and ideal which could possibly destroy them, and because they are there-fore afraid of it, that they persecute it. For these reasons, I am quite certain that, whatever else we do, the more publicity that can be given in this matter, the better. The most reverend Primate's Motion will give considerable publicity to what is going on behind the iron curtain. I certainly support this Motion.

4.14 p.m.


My Lords, I desire not to make any lengthy speech but to say a few words on this Motion because I think that the issue—and in this I fully agree with what has just fallen from the lips of my noble friend—is one of enormous importance. I am profoundly grateful to the most reverend Primate for having brought this matter before our notice. I feel that we are under a deep debt of gratitude to him, because this is probably the most important question that we have yet discussed, or are likely to discuss, at any rate in the lifetime of this Parliament.

The picture drawn by the most reverend Primate has been very clear. It is a picture of a widespread attempt to stamp out Christianity. I do not say that it is universal in the Soviet countries, but there is no doubt that that is the threat that we have to meet. It is a matter of tremendous importance. The noble Earl, Lord Perth, carried the matter further when he explained in detail what had been done in several countries in the direction of a policy of that kind. It is important that we should recognise the enormous importance which this problem holds for us: that if Christianity is destroyed or removed from practical effect, it would mean the end of our whole civilisation, and there would be nothing left of it in this country. Therefore, it is really a matter of the most vital importance.

I feel most strongly that we are not dealing here only with casual cases of cruelty; that is a different matter altogether. It is not even, strictly, religious intolerance. Still less do I accept the view put forward by the adherents of this policy, that it is merely an attempt to punish the people who are guilty of treason or sedition, whose religion is said to be a matter of in-difference to the country but who happen to be important from the religious point of view. All that seems to me entirely untrue and baseless. I hope your Lord-ships will agree with me when I say that this is part of a general policy based on what the Communist leaders themselves describe as dialectical materialism. That is the real point: it is really an attempt to establish a kind of philosophic basis for the Communist doctrines, founded fundamentally on hostility to all religion. The moment they come across religion they recognise that that is the difficulty in their way, and therefore they say that it should be abolished. That is the point. It is perfectly true that they rage much more against Christianity than they do against other forms of religion, because from their point of view, Christianity is the most dangerous religion.

In dealing with this problem we must get that into our minds. We are not dealing with just casual misdeeds. We are dealing with a question of opinion, a horrible ideology but an ideology of their own. It is their system, with all the defects of a policy founded on a creed— only in this case it is a creed without religion. It is essential that we should realise that. Whether the remedy suggested by the most reverend Primate is likely to succeed, I have my doubts. I agree with what the noble Lord just now said, that publicity is desirable. This debate is a good thing, because it will draw the attention of the public to what is going on, provided that it can be made quite clear what is going on.

When you talk about referring the matter to the United Nations, there are certain technical difficulties, with which I do not propose to deal beyond just a passing word. There is the clause in the Charter which forbids the United Nations to interfere in matters of domestic jurisdiction. There are other difficulties which I have no doubt are very familiar to the Foreign Office and those who advise them. Probably you can get round those difficulties if you really wish to. But if you get an important declaration from the United Nations against this Soviet policy, is it going to have a great effect or not? It will be just a declaration of the Governments assembled at the United Nations. We all noted with interest Lord Vansittart's suggestions as to various economic measures—I will not call them pinpricks—and steps of that kind, which could be taken. But I cannot believe that they would be an adequate remedy for an evil as great as that with which we are faced at this moment. The same thing applies with regard to the United Nations. No doubt one could without much difficulty get a declaration or resolution passed by the United Nations of their sympathy with the people who are subjected to this persecution, and their profound disapproval of it. But is it certain that that will produce much effect on the Governments who are advocating, and indeed en-forcing, these things? I should have thought it was extremely doubtful.

I quite understand that if we could get the Soviet Government to realise the great strength of opinion, founded on religious strength, which is against them in this matter, it might have an important effect on their policy, and also on their ideals. But should we get that? The Episcopal Bench can answer this question much better than I can. Is there any way of showing to the Soviet Government that religion as a whole, and particularly Christianity, violently disapproves of the action that they are taking? The United Nations could scarcely speak for Christianity—at least, I should be very much surprised to hear that they could. How many of the Governments represented in the United Nations could feel themselves in any way authorised to speak for the Christian religion? If the United Nations is not an authority which can offer to speak for Christianity or religion as a whole, where is there such authority? Clearly, if we propose to impress the Soviet Government, and Stalin personally, we must show that the whole vast body of opinion which speaks for Christianity and religion is on our side, and that the Soviet is running the gravest risk. That might help, if nothing else can be impressed upon the Soviet. But I wish very much that we could have had some enlightenment from the Episcopal Bench as to how that kind of result could be achieved.

I feel that we are really powerless in this matter to effect any great change. We do right to publish the wickedness that is going on; we do right to express our violent disapproval of it; we do right to employ all the methods of publicity that can be used against it. But in the end what does it all amount to? It amounts to persuasion. We shall have to persuade the Soviet Government that they are wrong in their whole conception; that the foundation on which they are building is wrong. That it is possible to do, and I hope that ultimately it will be done. It means prolonged argument, and ultimately, perhaps, conviction. It means a very long process— I do not suggest that that is any reason why we should not begin it. Indeed, on the contrary, I think that because it is a long process the only way out is for us to make a start immediately. With all our efforts and all our institutions we ought to see what can be done.

I am now getting on to dangerous ground, and I must be careful in what I say. It may be that we could give a very good example—after all, example is better than mere words. I cannot help feeling that we are in a difficulty with Christianity because it is split up into various sections, with various oppositions having an apparent dislike for each other. The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Chichester, whose work we all admire, must be as conscious as I am that at present there is no unity of spiritual force behind our efforts to join these divisions. I should indeed be grateful if some change in that respect could be made. Then we should be able to establish, if not a complete Union of Christianity (of which I do not see any prospect), at any rate some more active co-operation and exertion from all Christians to enforce and promote with all their strength those principles of civilisation on which religious freedom and everything we value ultimately rest.

4.27 p.m.


My Lords, perhaps I may make one or two remarks in sup-port of the Motion moved by the most reverend Primate. Of course, I recognise the difficulties in the most reverend Primate's suggestion that this matter should be brought before the United Nations Organisation, and particularly the difficulty in collating evidence and securing the attendance of witnesses. But that does not mean that the attempt should not be made, since I cannot believe that the Communist-controlled countries can be completely impervious to Christian world opinion. There is, of course, as we have heard to-day, evidence in abundance of persecution of all branches of the Christian Church and, I believe, of Jewish and Mohammedan communities as well, but I think it is inevitable that the Church which inspires the greatest hatred amongst the Communist bosses in the satellite countries is the Roman Catholic Church, not only because of its numerical strength in those countries, but also be-cause it acknowledges a spiritual head over whom Communist Governments can exercise no control.

May I illustrate the difficulty involved in trying to find out some of the truth for oneself by telling your Lordships of an experience I had a year or two ago in Yugoslavia when I was on holiday there with a friend from another place? We were both most anxious to visit Archbishop Stephinac in prison, not only because we felt he might consider it an act of courtesy on our part but also because we were anxious to find out how he was and what the conditions of his captivity might be. Through the good offices of our Consul-General in Zagreb, we met the Prime Minister of Croatia. He was not actually a Prime Minister in the sense that we think of a Prime Minister in this country; in fact, he was an official of the State. He was an admirable man, and was most affable, and no difficulty whatever was placed in our way about seeing the Arch-bishop. A day was named, and the day came. Unfortunately, the Archbishop was ill and could not see us. We were, naturally, very disappointed, but we persisted. Another day was named. Again the Archbishop was ill and unable to see us, We then went back to see the British Consul-General at Zagreb. He said to us with a smile: "You may stay all your lives in Zagreb, but you will never see Archbishop Stephinac." So we left.

Nevertheless, although we were unsuccessful in this endeavour to visit the Arch-bishop, we were able to see for ourselves to some extent how religion flourished in a Communist-controlled State. The Churches were certainly crowded for Mass on Sundays, but I noticed—and I thought it significant—that they were rarely, if ever, open between services. In fact, they were always shut which, as your Lord-ships know, is a practice unknown in the Roman Catholic Church and, indeed, in other Churches too. But the fact that a Church is open for worship on Sundays does not indicate that there is freedom of worship in that country. It is in the schools that one can ascertain whether freedom of worship exists or not. If you seize the Church schools and teach Communism in them, you have a good chance of eventually emptying the Churches. In fact, it is clearly sounder policy in a Communist State to seize the schools where Christianity is taught than to close the Churches. It is the same vile policy as was initiated by Hitler: "By all means let grown-up people go to Church; let me have the children."

Despite what I have suggested are many obvious and inherent difficulties involved in the most reverend Primate's Motion, I feel sure that it will be sympathetically considered by His Majesty's Government. I think that all of us in this country, where we have enjoyed the privilege of religious freedom for so long, are agreed that we must do all in our power to restore it to our fellow-Christians behind the Iron Curtain.

4.34 p.m.


My Lords, I suppose that there will be complete unanimity among all speakers in support of the Motion. I certainly support it, and look with horror—as do we all—upon the instances of savage imprisonment and persecution to which the most reverend Primate has referred. If I make a few comments it is because I think that the problems which have been raised possibly deserve a little more careful examination and exploration. Whether or not it would be a good thing to bring this matter before the United Nations I think the Government should judge. They know much more about Lake Success than back-Benchers do, and I should be quite satisfied with whatever decision they saw fit to make. The Motion, of course, is not a Motion in general support of the Charter of Human Rights. It focuses upon one aspect of the breach of the Charter— namely, the treatment of the Christian religion in certain Communist States. There has been no mention of Spain and no mention of the question being raised in the recent meeting of the (Ecumenical Churches in Toronto, where the whole question of religious persecution was explored and a Commission was set to work. That Commission has not yet reported. It opens up the widest possible field. But that is not what this Motion is directed at. The purpose of the Motion is to focus our attention upon the treatment of the Churches in certain countries.

I should like to make clear at this point that some of the fiercest controversies that exist in Central Europe to-day, and which have resulted in imprisonment and punishment, really have nothing to do with what we call religion, as such. I name one or two of them. There has been, for instance, reference to Poland. The article in The Times made it clear that the understanding which, I gather, was arrived at in April between the Roman Catholic Church in Poland and the Polish State, was in danger because the Vatican—no doubt for excellent reasons, and many of us, I am sure, think that they were right —insist on maintaining a provisional administration in Western Poland. Anyone who has spoken to Poles knows that this is the bitterest question which they have in their minds. Are they going to maintain the Oder-Neisse line or not? The Times points out that a number of the clergy in Western Poland desire to make the provisional administration permanent, because they wish to see the border established as arranged at Potsdam.


Will the noble Viscount forgive my interrupting him? Did he say: "The border as arranged at Potsdam."


I am speaking about the provisional border of the Oder-Neisse line. No one knows whether it is provisional or not; that is the whole point. I do not know whether it is or not. I am sure it would be very interesting indeed if the noble Viscount the Leader of the House would tell us the Government view about this border. But it has nothing whatever to do with religious persecution or religious freedom.

Let me take another case, the sufferings of Church leaders in Croatia. I was in Belgrade not long ago. It was not the Government who were hostile to the Croat Catholics at all. In fact, from some talks which I had, I gathered that they themselves would be glad to see the end of the matter. The people who denounced the prisoners to me with terrific fierceness were the Orthodox bishops. They said that if we knew what part those people had played, with the Ustashis, in persecuting and killing the Orthodox clergy, we should understand their position in the matter of the trials. If this matter were brought to the United Nations, I do not think that the most reverend Primate or my noble friend Lord Ammon would be able to say which side he was going to take in that matter.

Let me take now the question of Church obedience. As soon as the war was over, Poland and Russia took the Uniat Churches and pushed them into the Orthodox fold. I am no scholar, and I speak with a tremor in the presence of the learning and authority of the Bishops' Bench. But I understand that the Church was pushed from its Uniat allegiance to the Orthodox. That is what the noble Earl, Lord Perth has complained of. If this matter is to be brought to the notice of the United Nations, what view are we to take? Which side are we to be on?


I did not complain of the Church passing from one allegiance to another. What I complained of was the forcible measures used to bring about the change of allegiance.


Of course, I know this occasioned bitter feeling between the two Churches. The noble Earl is a great expert on this and many other matters, and I would not quarrel with him. But I do not know what we are going to say at U.N.O., or on which side we are going to be—that of the Orthodox Church or that of the Roman Catholic Church. Which side will who-ever has to speak for us be supposed to take?

Finally, there is what is to me, as a Nonconformist, a most difficult question. The State in some countries has retaliated by legislation against the use of ex-communication as a means of political pressure. Are we to consider such retaliation by the State as religious persecution, or are we not? That seems to me a question of the greatest delicacy and difficulty. We know very well that the dogmatic Marxist is a complete authoritarian, and he will not tolerate deviation of any kind. If he had his way he would be in head-on conflict with Christianity. There is no doubt about that. The phrase "Religion is the opium of the people," has been quoted to-day. As a matter of fact, Lenin borrowed that from a Christian clergyman, Charles Kingsley. It would be interesting to know how far this desire of the Communist Governments is succeeding; whether religious persecution is growing or diminishing; and what we can do to assist its disappearance. These seem to me to be practical considerations for us to remember.

I was in Moscow twenty-four years ago, at the time of the full blast of the Anti-God Campaign. My Communist guide spoke with contempt of the Christian religion. He said that a few old people believed in Christianity, but nobody else did. Marxism was right and was bound to prevail. But on Easter Eve I went into the church of St. Saviour. It was packed with believers—dangerously packed—and of their devotion there could be no doubt, as I appreciated when I saw the first candle lit, and all the others lit from it and the great light of this Easter dawn spread over that devout throng giving the Easter greeting. There is no doubt that the Communist Government would have liked to stop it if they could; but they could not. That experience of twenty-four years ago is now confirmed by the fact that the toleration of the Greek Orthodox Church in Russia is fairly general. In the (Ecumenical Press Service, which I recommend to your Lordships as a very useful service and which is pub- lished by the World Council of Churches in Geneva, I recently saw this statement: Easter in the Soviet Union in 1950 was marked by a very great attendance at divine service from Moscow to the farthest ends of Siberia. As all industries are State-controlled in Soviet Russia, the State publishing house publishes the Bible, and many Bibles are printed and circulated. You can buy a Bible from the Government in Moscow which would be confiscated by the Government in Madrid.

This Motion is partial; it does not deal with what is happening to Christianity in certain other countries. I support it for the area which it covers, but the most reverend Primate said nothing about China. If we believe, as I certainly do, that Christianity is something which can-not be destroyed, then we derive some hope from the situation in China. Again I quote from the Œcumenical Press Service, on which I rely for a good deal of my information. I observe that in their last issue of a month ago, they re-ported a proclamation of the National Christian Council of China. This proclamation was the outcome of a conference of Christian leaders with Chou-en-Lai. It urged the Chinese Churches to put into effect a programme of self-government, self-support and self-propagation. The reality of the movement is seen in the severance of European affiliations. The Chinese Churches are striking roots in China, which I think we shall all agree is a good thing. It was also reported that there was persistent heckling by Christian students at the mass meetings for educating Communist leaders organised by the Pekin Government. There are darker sides, of course; it is a patchy picture. But it is certainly encouraging to read that Bible distribution has increased from 400,000 in 1946 to 3,000,000 in 1948 under the Communist regime. I mention these things because the picture is not entirely black, and because I believe that Christianity cannot be conquered.


There was no Communist Government in China in 1948.


But the Communist-controlled area had already spread over a large part of China. I suppose that the number distributed this year is about the same as in 1948. We are entitled to take some comfort when we look round the world in an impartial way.

I come to a much more difficult question which concerns not congregations but the leaders of the Churches. I am deeply grateful to the most reverend Primate for what he has said about the Church leaders who have come to terms of some kind with the Governments in the countries in which they live. In the latest issue of Christianity and Crisis I read an article which appeared to condemn this. I think it was wrong and I was glad to hear that the most reverend Primate desired that these Church leaders should be encouraged. They include not only the Chinese but the Protestants of Hungary and Czechoslovakia and, of course, the heads of the Orthodox Church. They have made declarations supporting the national and economic policies of their fatherlands. Is this a signal for their outlawry from Christian fellowship? May it not be that they are right in praising the social, racial and economic reforms introduced by their Communist Governments? Yes, but they work with their Governments in police-con trolled States. How then are we to regard them? Is fellowship with them to be sought, and is it to be accepted?

Our disheartening experience in the last few years has been the destruction of non-political societies serving some inter-national cause. There has been a growing atmosphere of suspicion. There was a ,time when the most reverend Primate himself was a welcome and honoured guest in Moscow. The support of the Œcumenical Movement was general. Two years ago I spoke to some bishops in Sofia about the Amsterdam Assembly. They expressed the warmest sympathy, but said they feared they could not come because they believed it to be an instrument of Anglo-American diplomacy. In a word, the same suspicions which bedevil international relations have crept in to retard the growth of Church fellowship. But we are not dealing with Stalin; we are dealing with Christian leaders. Are they to be treated as agents, or are they to be hailed as friends and co-operators, as they were by the most reverend Primate? In the words of the Home Secretary: They could be most dangerous when they used their great positions to give undue weight to their political views. For that reason, he excluded them from this country. The logic of that is rupture. In a word, the cold war is to be declared in Christian relations. If that is clone, then, in my judgment, the last ray of hope for peace fades.

4.59 p.m.


My Lords, the noble Viscount, Lord Stansgate, asked what were the reactions of the Christian world to Communism, and expressed some doubts about the likely success of the policy of the political approach. I had not intended to speak in this debate, because I thought that everything required to be said was being said, and said so well that I did not want to acid to the discussion. In view of the noble Viscount's remarks, however, there are one or two things I should like to say. As the most reverend Primate in his admirable speech pointed out, there is no doubt whatever of the general Christian conscience being aware of the complete irreconcilability between Marxian Communism and the Christian faith. Further, there is certainly no doubt left by the Vatican of its complete opposition to the Communist apparatus and the Communist system.

I can say a little, but not a great deal nor very authoritatively, with regard to Churches not Roman Catholic, being connected with a body on which many are represented. The divisions of Christendom are an immense handicap in the expression of Christian world opinion—the divisions between the Roman Catholic Church and other Churches, and divisions within those Churches themselves. But wherever it has been possible to find an instrument of expression, although some-times the language is cautious—and one can understand caution in certain circumstances—there is a clear recognition of the evil of the totalitarian menace in all its forms. However, I do not think this distinction has been made quite as clearly in this debate as perhaps it is necessary to make it. We must all, and especially the Churches, recollect the distinction between Communism as an economic system and Communism as a fanatical religious creed. I do lot deny that the Communist economic system is not in the interests of human society as a whole— I am not concerned with that particular issue—but the fundamental fault of the Communist creed is its denial of freedom in spiritual matters. The Communist creed is to be resisted most of all because it imperils the living principle of freedom of the personality.

This leads me to say—and it follows on what the noble Viscount asked—that the method of combating Communism must be most carefully and deeply considered. Force, no doubt, must be met by force when necessary; but there is also no doubt that creed must be met by creed. The most reverend Primate at the beginning of his speech took blame for the guilt of persecution in olden times which the Church of England bears. I Should like to say that we, representing Christian churches in an organised form, must not underestimate the truth that historic Christianity, both in the East and the West, has much blame to bear for the evils which radicals—I am not speaking of atheistic radicals, but others—or Communist systems exploit under the pretence of ending them. Look right through the centuries—and I do not think the noble Earl, Lord Perth, would dis-agree—and you will find that Christian representatives must take to themselves some measure of blame for what historic Christianity has failed to do.


If I may interrupt the right reverend Prelate, may I ask whether it would not be better to say that Christians themselves must take the blame, and not so much historic Christianity?


I would rather use the term "historic Christianity." I belong to a body to which the noble Viscount, Lord Stansgate, referred—I gratefully recognise his reference and his tribute—called the World Council of Churches, which includes and rejoices in fellowship with Churches now suffering in Communist States. The most reverend Primate spoke of the exceedingly delicate situation in which many of those Churches stand, and expressed a sympathy with those who have to guide their fortunes. I feel that men in other Churches should be the last to judge the actions of the Church leaders in countries like Hungary, Czechoslovakia, Bulgaria. Roumania or elsewhere, and the decisions they make. They alone are up against the facts. Some make a decision one way, and others another. The decision which they make, for or against, is a decision which is on their conscience and is within their responsibility.

With regard to the remarks of the noble Viscount, Lord Stansgate, about news from China, I would say that one has to be cautious as to the actual estimate one puts upon items of news which are disseminated merely through a public periodical, which does not guaranatee the accuracy of the news but merely reports it. I would also say that, while we are conscious of the danger of the Churches being used as instruments of political policy in the countries behind the Iron Curtain, it is most important, in com-bating Communism in any form, not to use the Churches as pawns in the political game. They have their own vitality and integrity. Churches have their martyrs. Martyrdom means readiness to die for faith in God; it is the supreme testimony to spiritual freedom. The Christian is really a martyr, because he stakes every-thing on God. We must not twist martyrdom to political ends, nor cover the defence of a political or economic system against the Communist rulers by a claim that it is for religion alone that our stand is made. It is an extraordinary dilemma. Beckett and others have faced that dilemma in our own history: Is it faith or politics, or is it a mixture of both? But the martyr is the person who stands solely and exclusively for God. The two things are different, and we can only do harm to religion by using it as a political counter.

With reference to what has been said about religion in Russia, I think the crucial illustration of the Communist attack on religion is in the experience of Russia itself. That attack, as the most reverend Primate explained, went through many phases. It had its periods of out-right and violent attack; it had its periods of calumniation and anti-religious propaganda through the League of Militant Atheists; and it had its periods of sharp restriction, cultural strangulation and suppression. But the important point is that, after all these periods, the attack has failed. Religion in Russia is too deep. Though a new religious policy has come about since the beginning of the war, and violent attack and open blasphemy have stopped, anti-religious propaganda still continues, but is a failure. I should like to read to your Lordships a testimony by a leader of the anti-religious movement. It was made some time ago during the war, but I am sure the fact is true to-day. He wrote: The activity of the League of Militant Atheists has proved fruitless; it has increased dissatisfaction, hut not with religion or with the clergy. Among members of collective farms the dissatisfaction with the official atheism is growing. This is the reason why parents frequently refuse to send children to school and why in many cases children refuse to attend school. The best defence of religion is better and more vital religion; more unity amongst the Churches; more facing of the facts of the human situation in the Churches, and a regeneration of religion itself.

5.2 p.m.


My Lords, may I trouble your Lordships very briefly, solely for the purpose of dealing with a statement by the noble Viscount, Lord Stansgate, with regard to the Bible in Spain? I am sure that the noble Viscount will be willing to accept from me that his statement is no longer at any rate completely accurate. I have information here referring to last year, which states quite categorically that at least two editions of the Bible in Spanish were freely on sale and, I am glad to say, selling quite well in Madrid and other Spanish towns, and that there was no Government interference with that sale. In addition to those two editions of the full Bible—the names of which I can give the noble Viscount if I am asked to do so—there was at least two other editions of the complete New Testament.


My Lords, of course I am sure that the noble Earl has the full documentation for his statement, which I should like to go on record and to which I offer no dissent. How-ever, the terms of the Motion do not permit us to discuss the whole Spanish situation, which does reveal suppression of the non-Catholic faith, which is quite as shocking as anything which happens in any other part of Europe.

5.4 p.m.


My Lords, we have had a very notable debate, and I am sure that we have all listened with interest and sympathy to the speeches we have heard. It is important that your Lordships' House should have an opportunity to raise its voice in protest against the denial or the violation of human rights wherever that may occur. That is what we have been dealing with this afternoon. In this country we not only enjoy human rights but we are also free to be vigilant in their defence. We know what they mean in national and personal life, and we should therefore feel a deep sense of sympathy with peoples for whom similar rights, if they are not actually denied, are grossly violated or severely curtailed in practice. When your Lordships' House declares itself on spiritual or moral issues, it speaks with great authority, and is listened to with great respect, and it is right that it should register strong moral condemnation of the persecution of religion, which we all recognise for what it is—namely, an instrument of State policy in Soviet Russia, and countries within its orbit.

The fact that there is a calculated, persistent and energetic persecution of religion behind the iron curtain is beyond a challenge. We have had convincing evidence placed before us in this debate; there is available, also, a mass of documented material and reliable information which supports the indictment made here to-day and justifies this House in making its strongest condemnation. As we have been reminded, the final eradication of religion is the goal of Communist persecution of the Christian Churches. The strategy is permanent, but the tactics vary according to the strength or weakness of the religious forces arranged against them. This, I believe, explains the alternating periods of active persecution with periods of cold war on the Churches.

What we must always keep in mind is that, according to the doctrine of Communism, all religion is superstition, and all religious practice and organisation the expression of anti-social ideas. In my opinion, it is only by keeping that basic fact clearly in our minds that it is possible for us to understand not only the immediate significance of the Communist offensive against religion but also the long-term menace which it represents to the Christian world is a whole. The original attack upon religion which began in Soviet Russia over thirty years ago has been extended to the satellite countries, and these are now engaged in meting out to religion and the Churches the same kind of repressive treatment. The fact is that wherever Communism seizes power it attacks and seeks to destroy Christianity as a deliberate aim. In recent years, the public mind and conscience of the Wes-tern world has been deeply stirred, for example, by the trial of Protestant pastors in Bulgaria, and of Cardinal Mindszenty in Hungary. In earlier days, it was the attack on the Russian Orthodox Church, in the person of the Patriarch Tikhon, against which the Western world protested. The model for the oppression of the Churches and the restrictions on religious activities was set by the Soviet Union, and to-day all the satellites are working to that model and with the same ruthless efficiency and implacable consistency.

Before I come to the terms of the Motion, I should like to make one or two observations which I think are not with-out some importance. The Communists realise that the eradication of Christianity cannot be easily or speedily achieved. They are meanwhile seeking to exploit existing Christian beliefs and the Churches for their own advantage, and especially in support of Communist foreign policy. They have therefore mounted an insidious campaign designed to show an identity of aim between Christianity and Communism. Outside the orbit, where there can be no question of bending the Churches themselves to their will, they use this tactic to further their efforts to strengthen the Communist World Peace Movement by playing on religious antipathy to war. Inside the orbit the Communists can exploit the religious beliefs of their subjects in order not only to further the so-called peace campaign but also, by clever misrepresentation, to advance the Communist structure of society. These aims would be largely frustrated if the Churches themselves were allowed an in-dependent existence, because they could correct these misrepresentations. It is therefore necessary to capture or muzzle the Churches themselves and this is the policy which is being pursued.

Once the Churches have been forced into acquiescence the Communists can un-interruptedly pursue their two conflicting aims of gradually destroying religious beliefs while temporarily using them for various political purposes and designs of their own. An example of this is the support of national aspirations that is demanded. There is a clause in the Polish Church-State agreement pledging the Roman Catholic Church's support for Poland's present provisional Western frontiers. My noble friend raised the matter. The fact is that the Western frontiers of Poland with Germany are pro-visional and they will not be finally determined until the Peace Conference takes place. To impose advocacy of that frontier seems to me to be quite a different matter from its being voluntarily accepted by the Church. It was included in the agreement. Therefore, as I say, the Communists seek to force the Churches to give their spiritual support to the political de-signs and aims of the Communist Parties and Governments. Secondly, they seek support for the general economic and political aims of the Government. The Churches are driven into declaring sup-port for the Government's "reconstruction" plans, for the denunciation of all those held guilty of "anti-State activities", and for the construction of a Communist society, though of course this is intended to entail the eventual destruction of the Churches and of religion itself.

The eventual destruction of the Churches is being sought not only by attacks on their leaders, faked trials and administrative persecution, but also by the surest, if slowest and most insidious, of methods—the forcible education of the young in the spirit of materialism and their isolation from the influence of the Church. Religious education in the schools is being eliminated everywhere in the Communist orbit. The whole educational and cultural apparatus of the Communist State is being directed to inculcating the materialist philosophy into the younger generation. In Poland, where the Church-State agreement entails Government permission for religious education in State schools, this difficulty has been largely obviated by parents' associations dominated by Communists, which "spontaneously" demand that their children cease to receive religious education. In this way, and in other ways which are in flagrant violation of the Government's undertakings in the agreement, religion is being removed from the curriculum of State schools; and Church schools, in Poland as elsewhere in the orbit, are being rapidly reduced in number and size.

That is not the whole of the picture. In addition, all young people have to belong to youth organisations, often paramilitary in character, where they are actively educated in a spirit of material-ism and hostility to religious beliefs. This is a process which will work only slowly, of course. In the meantime, every obstacle is put in the way of religious observance by young people, who are forced to attend parades or "voluntary" work brigades at times which conflict with religious services. It will thus be seen that the Communist claim (which is, of course, only for export) that they are encouraging religion is entirely hypocritical. In fact, they are doing their utmost to stamp out religion; and they are taking advantage of the fact that this will be a long process to misuse the persistent religious beliefs of their Christian subjects to further their own Party and inter-national ends.

The purpose of the most reverend Primate's motion is to ask the Government to raise this problem of Communist persecution of religion at the United Nations. I have great sympathy with the most reverend Primate's object. It is important that the victims of this religious persecution should not come to think that they are forsaken by the Christian West, and I hope that the discussion in your Lordships' House to-day will be regarded by them as as act of sympathy and support. His Majesty's Government abhor the denial of religious freedom, both in countries which are members of United Nations and others which arc not, and they have always in mind the possibility of taking appropriate action through international channels. As the House is aware, His Majesty's Government have already done so in the General Assembly of the United Nations in connection with the denial of the human rights guaranteed in the Peace Treaties with Bulgaria, Hungary and Roumania. I can assure the most reverend Primate and all noble Lords that His Majesty's Government will continue to watch for opportunities of further action which can properly be taken within the terms of their Charters in this and other appropriate international bodies.

As the most reverend Primate will realise, it was possible to bring the three Governments I have already mentioned before the United Nations because they were charged with breaches of the Peace Treaties. It is, however, much more difficult to take effective action—I repeat, effective action-where the denial of human rights is not a breach of an inter- national obligation. As has already been recognised, the Charter of the United Nations gives the organisation absolutely no coercive powers in matters such as this. The most that can be done is to bring to bear on the offenders the moral force of world opinion. The moral force of world opinion can be a powerful factor, and I am sure that we should all wish it to be brought to bear whenever possible, though, as I think we all realise, experience has shown that Communist Governments display little respect for any public opinion anywhere. It is true, as has been stated in the debate, that the United Nations did pass in 1948 a Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and one of these rights is the right of religious freedom. I must point out, however, that the Communist-controlled States which are members of the organisation abstained when this Declaration was put to the vote. Moreover, the Declaration has no legal force. The United Nations Covenant on Human Rights, which will be legally binding upon its signatories, and which may therefore make it simpler to raise such problems in the United Nations, has not yet been completed.

The noble Viscount, Lord Cecil of Chelwood, reminded the House of paragraph 7 of Article 2 of the Charter. I think I had better read that; to your Lord-ships. It states that: Nothing contained in the present charter shall authorise the United Nations to intervene in matters which are essentially within the domestic jurisdiction of any State or shall require the members to submit such matters to settlement under the present charter. As I have said, there is no legal basis upon which to bring these matters before the United Nations. Even if these technical difficulties did not exist or could be over-come, the fact is, as the most reverend Primate has said, that it would not be possible to raise the matter in the United Nations Organisation until the next session of the General Assembly, which will be held in the Autumn of next year.

I mention these points, not in an obstructive spirit and not from any lack of sympathy with the desires which the most reverend Primate has in mind, but because they represent practical difficulties in the way of the particular course proposed. I was glad to hear that the most reverend Primate appreciates those difficulties. I gather from his speech that, in these circumstances, he will agree that His Majesty's Government should be left free to take advantage of any opportunity for further action on the lines which I have already indicated. Having given that assurance, I hope that the most reverend Primate will find no difficulty in withdrawing his Motion, knowing that by raising this discussion, in which he has found so much support, he has provided your Lordships' House with another opportunity of registering publicly its strong moral condemnation of the Communist persecution of religion, and its sympathy with all who are the victims of that persecution.

5.22 p.m.


My Lords, I am very grateful to the noble Lord for his reply. I feel that he has made it plain that the Government are fully in sympathy with the general terms of this Motion, although apparently they feel some difficulty at The moment in acting upon it. I understand from the noble Lord that the Government will look for any opportunities which may arise, and for any suitable occasions which may present themselves, to press this matter before the United Nations Organisation, or in any other suitable way. That being so, I agree with the noble Lord that we must leave to the Government the time and the occasion when they will do that. Certainly, in view of what the noble Lords have said on this Motion. I feel that it has already secured the purpose for which I moved it—namely, to give this House an opportunity of expressing its abhorrence of the persecutions which are now taking place. That already has been done abundantly and unanimously from every part of the House. I there-fore beg leave to withdraw my Motion.

Motion for Papers, by leave, with-drawn.