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Last Updated: Sunday, 4 March 2007, 10:36 GMT
Church leaders make Old Firm trip
Hands with anti-sectarian bracelets
The anti-sectarian campaign has been running for some time in Scotland
Scotland's religious leaders will join the First Minister Jack McConnell at next week's Old Firm clash.

They will watch the Bank of Scotland Premier League match between Celtic and Rangers and find out about efforts to banish sectarianism.

Cardinal Keith Patrick O'Brien will join the Right Reverend Alan McDonald, moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland at the game.

Jewish, Muslim, Hindu and Sikh representatives will also attend.

Celtic Football Club chairman Brian Quinn said: "We are delighted the first minister and religious leaders have accepted our invitation to attend the match.

The Old Firm clubs have much to be proud of in the way they have tackled these issues head-on in recent times
First Minister Jack McConnell

"Since the club's formation in 1888, Celtic has been a club open to all, regardless of religion or race and today we have supporters of many different backgrounds and religions.

"It is very important that we continue to promote this strong message of inclusion. Through a range of initiatives, the club has worked tirelessly against bigotry in all its forms and we will continue to do so.

"Football has the capacity to unite people and we are therefore pleased to have the leaders of these religious groups join us at the Old Firm match."

Mr McConnell has been highly critical of the sectarian divide between Rangers and Celtic supporters and labelled their turbulent meeting in November 2004 "a step back in time".
Jack McConnell
Mr McConnell has been outspoken in his criticism of sectarianism

Both Glasgow clubs have confirmed their commitment to tackling the problem of racial and religious intolerance.

In December, a Sectarianism in Football working group launched plans to rid the game of bigotry.

Mr McConnell said at the time: "Very public visits such as this do send a signal that Scotland is uniting in its efforts to rid the country of bigotry and promote inclusion.

"The Old Firm clubs have much to be proud of in the way they have tackled these issues head-on in recent times.

"We have come a long way with our work in schools, football banning orders and new ways of dealing with marches and parades.

"There is still some way to go, but I am proud of the progress that Scotland, its football clubs, and our young people in particular have made."


SEE ALSO
Churches unite in New Year plea
31 Dec 06 |  Scotland
Tackle 'social causes' of bigotry
12 Dec 06 |  Glasgow and West
New pact aims to beat the bigots
02 May 06 |  Scotland
Can Scotland beat the bigots?
02 May 06 |  Have Your Say
Plea to 'give bigotry the boot'
29 Jul 05 |  Scotland

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