Justin Welby: Evil-willed people are using Brexit as excuse for hatred

Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby speaks at a Ramadan 'iftar' fast-breaking celebration at Lambeth Palace last night.Archbishop of Canterbury/Facebook

Evil-willed people are using Brexit as an excuse to give vent to hatred and to create division, the Archbishop of Canterbury said last night. 

In what became a conscious display of interfaith harmony at a time of unprecedented tension, Justin Welby hosted an iftar last night night at Lambeth Palace - a breaking of the Muslim fast of Ramadan.

He was joined by Mayor of London Sadiq Khan and Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis, as well as many young people of Christian and other faiths.

"At a time of uncertainty and division, it's a joy and privilege to celebrate this great world city with young faith and other leaders from different backgrounds and religious traditions," he wrote on his Facebook page.

"It is such a privilege to have such a group of young leaders who are so crucial to these troubled times we are going through," he said. "I greatly appreciate that you should have come here this evening."

He said it had been the longest Ramadan in more than 30 years. Addressing the Muslims there, he said: "Your faithfulness in observing Ramadan in this way has been an example of what it means to take faith seriously." The long days, early mornings and late evenings as well as for many, having to cope with exams, made them a particularly good example. "May God give you strength to continue."

He also welcomed having a Muslim mayor in London, the "great city" where he and his wife grew up and said he was in their prayers.

"We are though, as you know, a country that has gone through a bruising electoral campaign. We are to some degree a country divided. Divided demographically between how younger people voted and older people voted. Divided regionally, particularly with London having voted very clearly to remain, and other places having voted to leave.

"We are in a democracy, we accept the result. This is what happens when you have a democracy. People vote, and some people win and some people lose. If you are on the wrong side and you lose, you just have to say, well that's the privilege of democratic government. 

"But the privilege of democracy is to vote. To campaign vigorously. To have robust and firm discussion. It is not a privilege of democracy to express hatred, to use division as an excuse for prejudice and for hate-filled attacks. We've seen a sharp increase in those in the last few days." He said he was not blaming the leave campaign. "But people who are of evil will are using this as an excuse, a mere sham for their hatred to be expressed."

He particularly condemned the attack on the Polish Centre in Hammersmith. "That is an outrageous attack on the representatives of a country who have been friends and allies of Britain for decades and who we value very greatly."

He urged all those present to be united against hatred and division, and to work to rebuild the nation with "a new vision of what it means to be outward looking, generous and hospitable." He called on them to be "powerful in doing good, strong in resisting evil."

Christians believe every human being is loved by God, loved by Christ, and has intrinsic dignity, he said. "Let us be those who stand up, speak out and stand especially with the most vulnerable."