UK Churches have issued an election pack, highlighting the threat of the BNP and urging community mobilisation to combat extremist parties ahead of the European Elections. It comes after adverts were produced by the BNP featuring Jesus Christ, and ongoing efforts by the racist party over the last few years to mobilise support around ‘defending Christian Britain.’
The thinktank Ekklesia has been amongst those who have warned that rhetoric from church leaders about ‘Christian Britain’ has played into the party’s hands, feeding a sense of religious nationalism amongst those who associate ‘Britishness’ with Christianity.
An analysis of the BNP membership list by the thinktank Ekklesia revealed that some who attended Bible studies, ran Christian bookshops and were active in churches were cited as members.
The European elections take place on 4 June 2009 every. There will also be some English County Council elections.
A briefing from the Baptist Union of Great Britain, the Methodist Church and the United Reformed Church highlights the ‘importance of citizenship’ and urges Christians to vote. A new toolkit has also been produced by the three churches specifically ‘to help equip and affirm local church leaders to take action to counter far-right and racist politics’.
Methodist President Revd Stephen Poxon said: “Voting isn’t just a right - it is a privilege that carries great responsibility. A high turnout at the ballot box is good for democracy and society and will make it harder for extremist parties to succeed.
“The European Union directly influences many aspects of our lives,” added Revd John Marsh, Moderator of the General Assembly of the United Reformed Church. “The European Parliament is the only EU body elected by its citizens, and it is a powerful and important legislature for all 27 member countries.”
Revd Jonathan Edwards, General Secretary of the Baptist Union of Great Britain, said, “The toolkit for local church leaders is designed to help equip ministers and lay people alike with ideas and information about what they can do to counter racist politics. 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.”
The briefing and toolkit are available online at www.jointpublicissues.org.uk/jpitpolitics