The Bishop of Stafford has told Christians that they have a “moral duty” to oppose the British Nationalist Party.
The Rt Rev Gordon Mursell was speaking ahead of a controversial BNP rally being held in Stoke-on-Trent on Saturday, which is going on in spite of calls from some groups for the gathering to be banned. Organisers expect the rally to be the biggest held by the party to date, whilst local councillors are warning people not to look for confrontation.
Bishop Mursell said, “"The BNP are dangerous because they try to make us believe that all our problems are caused by foreigners. This is nonsense.”
He acknowledged there were a number of challenges facing the area, including the need for more investment, better housing and better public transport.
“But these challenges have nothing to do with foreigners. They are caused by a lack of vision among our politicians who seem unable to work together for the good of the city and the region.
“The reason the BNP are dangerous is because they claim to be able to improve public services when their real agenda is to repatriate immigrants and encourage locals and incomers to hate one another.”
He called on Christians to speak out against the BNP.
“Christians in particular have a moral duty to oppose the BNP because the Bible explicitly commands us to love the stranger and reverence the alien.
“We need more outsiders, not less: more skilled workers, more nurses, more office cleaners, and above all more people who bring energy and vision and a willingness to work hard.
“Stoke City Football Club didn't get into the Premier League by hating foreigners. And if we want our city to be where it should be - in the premier league of British cities - we need to welcome everyone of goodwill and work together for the common good. The BNP are bad news."
Christians from the local area will meet in St Mark’s Church in Stoke city centre on Saturday morning for a prayer vigil for peace and reconciliation. Prayer stations will also be open throughout the day, where Christians will be invited to focus their prayers on different aspects of peace in Stoke and around the world.
Stoke-on-Trent Policing Division’s Superintendent Bernie O’Reilly warned that leaflets to be distributed by the BNP during the rally were legal but “in places, inaccurate, unbalanced and deliberately misleading”.
He assured police would be out to “minimise the impact” of the rally on the local community and urged people “to go about their business as usual”.