Church leaders from around West Yorkshire will meet on Wednesday in united opposition to the racist British National Party (BNP) ahead of the European elections in June.
They are expected to approve a statement on political extremism which will be critical of the BNP and will urge voters to ‘use their cross’ for the main democratic parties.
In a symbolic move, the meeting will take place at the Moravian settlement at Fulneck, Pudsey. The Moravian church there provided hospitality for children and families fleeing from the Nazis.
The name Moravian derives from the refugees from Moravia. The original church also suffered persecution during the counter-Reformation and survived in an underground fellowship over the next hundred years.
Tomorrow’s statement follows a tradition of West Yorkshire church leaders uniting to speak out against the BNP, going back to the last European elections in 2004.
It also follows increased efforts by the BNP to recruit Christians by using the rhetoric of defending ‘Christian Britain’.
Pastor Gloria Hanley, Chair of West Yorkshire Ecumenical Council said: “racism is a sin, as all people are created in God’s image; the British National Party does not speak for Christians“.
As well as Pastor Hanley, others affirming the statement are likely to include Angican bishops, the Catholic bishop of Leeds and representatives from the Quakers, Salvation Army, the Moravians, the Lutherans, the Methodist Church, the Baptist church and the United Reformed Church.
West Yorkshire Ecumenical Council has taken a lead in 2009 in mobilising Christians to vote for parties other than the BNP. It has issued specimen church magazine material entitled ‘Use Your Cross’ and a set of resource notes for local churches.
The full text of the statement is as follows:
"Seventy years ago, the Fulneck Moravian Settlement became home for Jewish children and families fleeing from the terror of the far-right in Europe.
"As leaders of different churches in West Yorkshire, meeting at Fulneck, we affirm the values of unity, tolerance, hospitality and mutual respect, which have always helped people from different backgrounds to live together.
• "We are deeply concerned at the views and activities of British National Party which is using people’s fears to stir up racial and religious hate.
• "We assert that all human beings are created equally in the image of God, that racism is a sin, and that such extremist groups do not speak for Christians.
• "In particular, we are called to love our neighbours as ourselves; and so we abhor any rejection of our neighbours of other faiths as an affront to all our beliefs and a danger to the unity of the whole community.
"On 4 June, the people of Yorkshire and the Humber will choose our representatives in the European Parliament. The regional voting system means that every vote counts. A high turnout will enhance democracy and prevent candidates on extremist platforms from winning seats.
"We urge all Christian people to use their cross on 4 June, and, by exercising their right to vote, to defeat the advocates of extremism and hatred."
West Yorkshire Ecumenical Council resources are available at: www.wyec.co.uk