Church leaders issue joint declaration against BNP

( [email protected] ) Apr 26, 2004 06:27 PM EDT

Church leaders of West Yorkshire are deeply concerned that the British National Party is currently active in proposing to field candidates for seats in the local and European elections. They are calling people to exercise their votes rather than risk BNP candidates benefiting from low turnout and apathy.

Some of the most senior church leaders, which include the Anglican and Roman Catholic churches, will issue a joint declaration against the British National party this week, calling on voters to reject the rightwing group at the coming local council and European elections.

The statement will be presented on Wednesday by the Quaker chairwoman of the West Yorkshire ecumenical council Eva Pinthus, a 79-year-old who fled from Nazi Germany on a kindertransport train for Jewish child refugees.

The West Yorkshire hierarchies of every mainstream Christian denomination have agreed an uncompromising attack on "divisive" politics which deny the central precepts of church teaching and faith.

"As Christians, we deplore all attempts to divide our society on race and asylum issues.

"We seek to follow the example of Christ who calls us to love our neighbour as ourselves. We resist and challenge the messages from the British National party against members of some faith communities and assert that all human beings are created equally in the image of God.

"We welcome and celebrate the contribution and example given by all people of faith to this multicultural area. We urge all Christian people to exercise their right to vote and to vote only for candidates whose policies reflect a spirit of inclusive welcome."

Stephanie Rybak, executive secretary of the council, said: "If people of goodwill do not vote, there is a real danger that candidates with extremist views can be elected by a minority. If we do not want to be represented on the local council or in the European Parliament by a BNP candidate, then we must vote. That is the message being put across by this statement, which has the support of all the churches of West Yorkshire."