Use vote for hope not hate, say Cumbrian church leaders

Cumbrian church leaders are urging people not to vote for the BNP in forthcoming European and county council elections.

In a joint statement, the church leaders said they were “deeply concerned” by the far-right wing party’s suggestion that Christians should vote for it in the June 4 elections.

The BNP recently launched a poster campaign featuring Jesus and quoting John 15.20, in which Jesus says: “If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you.”

The advert then asks: “What would Jesus do?”

The Cumbrian church leaders said the BNP’s policies “would have turned Jesus, Mary and Joseph away from their party and our shores”.

“The Christian vision of society is one where each person is treated with dignity and respect, whatever their race or religion. It is a vision of hope,” they said.

“The Christian churches are totally opposed to the BNP’s attempts to stir up racial and religious hatred, use false and distorted claims to exploit people’s fears, and create suspicion between communities. We reject their message of division and conflict.”

Among those to sign the statement were regional leaders of the Anglican, United Reformed, Methodist and Baptist Churches, and The Salvation Army.

They said a high turnout on June 4 was vital to stop the BNP gaining a seat in the North West.

“We urge all our congregations and communities to use their vote for one of the other parties in the elections,” they said.

Churches have distanced themselves from attempts by the BNP to fashion itself as the party for Christians.

The Baptist Union of Great Britain, the Methodist Church and the United Reformed Church have produced a briefing pack in which they stress the importance of participating in democratic processes and urge people not to vote BNP.

In the toolkit, churches are advised to keep track of the BNP’s electoral performance and publicity material, and develop solutions to the concerns of the local community that are not based on the politics of fear and hatred. The toolkit also recommends that local churches unite in speaking out against racist political organisations.

Speaking at the time of the toolkit’s launch, the Rev Jonathan Edwards, General Secretary of the Baptist Union of Great Britain said: “The appropriation of Christian language and imagery by the BNP is deeply offensive – we need churches across Britain to live out a faith that is open and inclusive, rooted in a commitment to love our neighbours as we love ourselves.”