Today is St George’s Day and earlier this year The Archbishop of York ,Ugandan-born Dr Sentamu, called for a stronger focus on St George’s Day in response to the past association of England’s patron saint and the national flag of St George with racists and the Far Right.Dr Sentamu said that failure to support an English cultural identity could create a ‘twisted vision’ which could be exploited by firebrand politicians and Islamic extremists. The revival of interest in St George has been boosted in recent years by devolution in Scotland and Wales, and through widespread use of England’s national flag, the Cross of St George, by fans of the national football team.
The Archbishop added; ‘Has the time come to make the feast of St George, the patron saint of England, a public holiday?’Whether it be the terror of Salafi-jihadism (the radical Islamic doctrine behind Al Qaeda) or the insidious institutional racism of the British National Party, there are those who stand ready to fill the vacuum with a sanitised identity and twisted vision if the silent majority are reticent in holding back from forging a new identity.’Englishness is not diminished by newcomers who each bring with them a new strand to England’s fabric – rather Englishness is emboldened to grow anew.The truth is that an all-embracing England, confident and hopeful in its own identity, is something to celebrate. Let us acknowledge and enjoy what we are.”
Musician and political activist Billy Bragghas also called for the nation to the cross of St George and take pride in being English, and believes very much that St George’s Day offers a unique opportunity for people from all backgrounds and beliefs to come together and celebrate the things that make England great. His 2002 CD England, half English featured a number of songs based on the concept of multi-faith, multi-cultural Englishness. One of my favourites comes from the album’s title track;
“Britannia, she’s half English, she speaks Latin at home. St George was born in the Lebanon, how he got here I don’t know. And those three lions on your shirt. They never sprang from England’s dirt them lions are half English and I’m half English too.”
For more on St George go to http://www.royalsocietyofstgeorge.com/historyofstgeorge.htm