Churches challenged to act against electoral rise of the racist right

By staff writers
June 8, 2009

Disappointment and concern have been expressed by Christians and church leaders following gains made by the far-right British National Party (BNP) in last week’s European Parliament Elections - the results of which came in last night.

In elections held on Thursday 4 June 2009, the BNP won two seats in the European Parliament and three seats in local councils around the UK.

Free Church leaders, Anglicans and Catholics deplored the BNP's gains. But the religion and society think-tank Ekklesia says the churches need to do more than express dismay. They have to combat the narrow nationalist and "Christian nation" rhetoric the far-right is using.

The Rev Graham Sparkes, Head of Faith and Unity for the Baptist Union of Great Britain, declared; “It’s deeply disappointing that we now have a racist party representing Britain in Europe for the next five years and it is vital that our remaining UK representatives dedicate themselves to promote the common good.”

Many commentators predicted success for the BNP due to low voter turnout, anger and resentment in the light of the economic crisis and the political scandals of recent weeks. However, the gains were nowhere near as great as the party itself predicted.

Anti-racism campaigners say that efforts must now be redoubled to combat prejudice and to tackle the inequality and social division which breeds it.

Secretary for Church and Society for the United Reformed Church, Frank Kantor, condemned "the BNP using their position to promote their racist policies."

"We will continue to counter their messages of hatred and fear,” he said.

Simon Barrow, co-director of the religion and society think-tank Ekklesia, which has been warning of the rise of the far right and their use of 'Christian' rhetoric for some time, said that "more than condemnation or hand-wringing distaste is required to tackle the BNP and others who seek to foster fear and anger towards particular groups in society."

"The BNP have openly been using 'Christian nation' rhetoric," he pointed out. "Churches need to dissect and reject attempts to identify and conflate faith, race and nation, as well as combating the mainstream drift towards blaming, targeting and scapegoating migrants."

Barrow added that "inequality, pockets of serious deprivation and the growing gap between governors and governed produced by a political system in need of major reform have also built the resentment that causes some people to mistakenly vote for the BNP. 'Business as usual' is not an option now, for the churches or anyone else."

Although the views expressed in this article do not necessarily represent the views of Ekklesia, the article may reflect Ekklesia's values. If you use Ekklesia's news briefings please consider making a donation to sponsor Ekklesia's work here.