Church leaders across East Anglia intervened last night in the local and European Parliament elections campaign by warning that voting for the British National Party (BNP) could put the well-being of communities at risk.
Two weeks before polls open for county council and European elections, bishops spanning the denominations issued a joint statement urging people to exercise their right to vote but remain vigilant.
Widespread fears have been voiced that revelations about MPs' allowance claims could prompt disenchanted voters either to shun the polls on June 4 or back fringe parties such as the far-right BNP, which is fielding candidates in more seats than ever before.
“The regional voting system means every vote counts,” the bishops said, of the Euro-poll. “As church leaders in the region, we encourage everyone to exercise their right to vote and to do so with the well-being of all people in our communities in mind.
“The East of England has a notable history of welcoming people fleeing persecution elsewhere in Europe, sometimes on religious grounds. As Christian leaders in this generation, we believe hospitality and living together with mutual respect remain the foundation of a civilised society. All human beings are created equal: that is why racism is a sin.
“Christ calls on us to love our neighbours as ourselves, and in this forthcoming election we believe it is right to be vigilant about any party or individual candidate seeking to use people's fears for their own well-being to stir racial and religious hatred. At a time when many people are anxious about their jobs, finances and future, we pray that the best and most generous traditions of our national life will guide all voters on June 4.”
Clergy in parts of Norfolk say some groups have been leafletting congregations to try to drum up votes.
Norwich Evening News