Christianity's long history in fighting for social justice | Letters

While the great religious traditions do not support any single political dogma, throughout history they have been at the forefront of the some of the great struggles for liberty (The Guardian view on liberal Christians: is this their moment?, 1 January). The campaign to abolish the slave trade featured a number of Christians, and was led by William Wilberforce. He proposed anti-slavery motions in parliament for 18 years, culminating in the 1807 act to abolish the trade. Furthermore, some of the welfare reforms in early 20th-century Britain were inspired by Christians, such as Canon Samuel Barnett and his wife, Henrietta.

In the US, the civil rights movement was led by a Baptist minister, Martin Luther King, while Archbishop Romero was a totemic figure in campaigning against breaches of human rights in the civil war in El Salvador. The church also played a prominent role in opposing apartheid in South Africa. On the international stage, churches and Jewish groups were the main supporters of the campaign to institute the 1948 genocide convention. These examples show that religious groups have a strong record of supporting campaigns for justice and freedom, and defending those facing persecution.
Zaki Cooper
Trustee, Council of Christians and Jews

• Founded by Manchester Unitarians in the early 19th century, the creation of the Guardian newspaper was partly the product of liberal Christian conscience. Your otherwise excellent editorial on the opportunities for progressive Christianity focused rather heavily on the Roman Catholic and Orthodox churches.

Across the denominational spectrum, liberal and radical Christians are keen to nurture a narrative and practice of fraternity to challenge the brutal individualism that has torn the fabric of society since the beginning of the 1980s. It is seen in practical support for food banks; the way churches make their premises available for social support groups; and the unseen work done by clergy and people of faith to support the mental health of countless people in our communities.

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When so many political promises of individual prosperity are increasingly exposed as cakeism and illusion, we should not be surprised if people return to deeper patterns of meaning and solidarity.
Rev Matthew Smith
Minister, Framlingham and Bury St Edmunds Unitarians


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