British Airways Cross Debacle - A Society Losing Its Identity?

The decision to restrict check-in worker Nadia Eweida from wearing her cross - a symbol representing her religious faith and devotion to Jesus Christ - British Airways, one of the largest carriers of air traffic in the world, has entangled itself in a religious debate that runs deeper that it would first seem.

In prohibiting the cross from being worn "outside the uniform" BA has inferred that the cross would offend its customers.

The whole debacle has opened up a debate over what religious symbols are acceptable, and which are deemed to be offensive.

So where does the cross stand on the spectrum of what could be seen as insulting to people? How should society treat the cross? What is the meaning of the cross?

In basic terms the cross to all Christians symbolises the love of God; a symbol of the life of sacrifice of Jesus Christ, and a life of atonement and love for all people. It does not hold any meaning of wickedness or hate to offend.

So on this basic level, the cross seems not to be something that should in essence be offensive.

But concerning the context of the incident at hand something stands out as concerning: this did not happen in a country where Christianity is a minority - not that this would be an excuse for restricting a person's freedom of religion - but this happened in a country where according to the last census 71 per cent of the population openly testifies to being Christian.

|QUOTE|England is a nation where the Church is firmly established by the law of the land. In addition, the Supreme Governor of the Church of England is also the Head of State. Christianity is so ingrained into English society that often we forget that the democracy we are all enjoying has come about to a large extent from its Christian heritage.

In more or less every town in the country you are likely to see the cross numerous times on churches, a testimony to the influence of Christianity on the land. Millions have crosses in their homes, celebrities have them on tattoos, and, yes, many even have them on their jewellery. To live in Britain yet take offence at the cross must lead to a very stressful life indeed.

Multi-cultural Britain over the last few decades has meant becoming "tolerant Britain" - so much so, that a sudden stream of extremism has been allowed to plant itself into society. The line between cutting off extremism, and putting in place a firmly tolerant society is being created, but it is vital that the line be precisely drawn.

British Airways says that it would have allowed Nadia Eweida to keep wearing her cross, which was roughly the size of a 5 pence piece, if it remained securely under her uniform. However, regarding other more prominent religious symbols, BA has said that they can be displayed without hindrance because it is "impractical" to hide the symbols of their faith under their uniform.

Northern Ireland Secretary Peter Hain has said that BA's decision was "loopy".

Catholic Tory MP Ann Widdecombe has called for a boycott of the airline until they reverse their decision.

Of course for a Christian it is obviously easier not to be offended by the sight of a cross. So what do other faiths think of BA's decision? Would seeing a cross offend them as they checked-in for a BA flight?

Inayat Bunglawala, of the Muslim Council of Britain, said: "It is an expression of private religious belief and we do respect that in the same way that we respect the right of Muslim women to wear the Niqab."

In addition, it has been reported that Dr Indarjit Singh, director of the Network of Sikh Organisations, said: "It is very silly and narrow-minded of British Airways not to allow Nadia to wear her cross."

Without many notable people coming out to back BA's decision, it seems that in its attempt to remain sensitive to those of all faiths, BA has inadvertently offended millions across the nation.

Has Britain finally lost its identity as a Christian nation amid a rush to become a thriving multi-cultural society? Christianity is something so deeply imbedded into British history, that to deny it would surely be to deny its character and identity.

However, it must be remembered that the debate has been brought to the forefront by British Airways, who in 1997 dropped the Union Jack flag - the symbol of Britain - from the tailfins of their aircraft so that a more ethnic design could be created. Now the cross - the symbol of Christianity, and many also say of Britain itself - is also being dropped by the airline.

Let's hope that an apology and retraction of this absurd decision will be forthcoming. However, even if the airline does lose the core identity of its name, let's hope that Britain itself does not follow suit and lose the identity of where the foundations of its modern society and democracy have come from. Rather with a greater pride let all Christians declare the true meaning of the cross!