Hundreds of Christians to pray for EU referendum in Parliament Square

Hundreds of Christians are expected to pray in Parliament Square on the eve before the EU referendum as an increasingly fractious debate enters the last two days.

Both sides have been accused of stoking division as the campaigns to remain and leave the European Union re-started after a suspension following the death of MP Jo Cox. Rev Patrick Allerton, associate vicar of St Dionis in Fulham, said a gathering outside Parliament on Wednesday evening will pray for the "healing of our land and healing in political terms" hours before the polls open on Thursday morning.

Allerton said between 300 and 1000 had turned up for previous, similar events.Reuters

The event from 7-8pm is for Christians of all traditions and is "totally without agenda or political line", Allerton told Christian Today.

"It is a visible statement to the watching world that the church is alive and engaged," he said. "It is about being a city on a hill and a lamp on its stand."

1 Chronicles 7.14 reads: "If my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land."Facebook / 7.14

The event is part of a series of prayer meetings known as 7:14 to encourage Christians to pray for political events. Allerton said the name was based on the Bible verse 2 Chronicles 7:14 and added that being a Christian meant being political.

"We declare and proclaim publicly that Jesus Christ is Lord," he said. "In the first century that was the most political statement you could make – not Caesar but Jesus is Lord.

"We need to be engaged in politics because that is how the world is run and we want it to be run as close to God's will as possible," he said.

"That necessitates being engaged in the political process."

The prayer meeting is part of a wider effort among churches to engage with the referendum debate. Although the Church of England has officially remained neutral, the Archbishops of Canterbury and York along with a number bishops have publicly backed remaining in the EU. The same goes for all the bishops in the Church in Wales.

Similarly, the head of the Catholic Church in the UK has warned Brexit would create "complex problems". Cardinal Vincent Nichols said there was a "long tradition in Christianity, and in Catholicism in particular, of believing in holding things together".

The Presbyterian Church of Scotland has also maintained its longstanding support of the EU.

But despite overwhelming support for remaining in the EU from their leaders, Christians in the pews tend to sway towards Brexit. A poll for Populus found Christians as a whole are more Eurosceptic than the general public and significantly more so than other faith groups such as Muslims, Jews, Hindus and Sikhs.

Giles Fraser, Guardian columnist and Anglican priest in Southwark, London, has sided with the campaign to leave the EU. He told Christian Today the reason he backed Brexit was because he believed the EU isolated poorer communities. "This is a debate between people on the margins and people in the centre," he said.

Polls will open at 7am on Thursday morning and close at 10pm.