BY ED WEST
BISHOP Arthur Roche of Leeds has joined religious leaders in Yorkshire urging voters to shun the British National Party at the European Parliament elections on June 4.
He was among a group that met at the Fulneck Moravaian Settlement in Leeds to denounce the party for “using people’s fears to stir up racial and religious hatred” and to urge Yorkshire people to snub extremism.
The statement, which claimed that “extremist groups” such as the BNP “do not speak for Christians”, was signed by Bishop Roche and by the Anglican Bishops of Ripon and Leeds, Bradford, Wakefield, Knaresborough and Pontefract and local representatives of the Methodists, Quakers, Baptists, the Salvation Army and Lutherans.
They said: “Seventy years ago the Fulneck Moravian Settlement became home for Jewish children and families fleeing from the terror of the Far Right in Europe.
“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 the 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. We urge all Christian people to use their cross on June 4 and, by exercising their right to vote, to defeat the advocates of extremism and hatred.” The BNP is expected to win seats at the forthcoming election, which are allocated in each region by proportional representation. It needs only 11 per cent of the vote to win in the Yorkshire region, and received eight per cent in 2004.
Justice Minister Shahid Malik, MP for Dewsbury, earlier last week said that Yorkshire would become a “laughing stock” if its voters elected a BNP candidate. But the party has won support for its anti-immigration platform. In the past five years alone the Muslim population of Britain has increased by 500,000.
After the Church of England Synod passed a motion banning vicars from being members of the BNP, the party launched a poster campaign targeted at Christians with the headline: “What would Jesus do?” and likening the persecution of BNP members with the sufferings endured by Christ.
Party leader Nick Griffin said in his Easter message: “It’s not racist to support British jobs for British workers or to be opposed to militant Islam, it’s just common sense and in line with the teachings of Jesus Christ.” BNP Deputy leader Simon Darby called the Yorkshire churchmen “an unholy alliance”.
He said: “This shouldn’t be happening in a free society. The church shouldn’t interfere in politics. I have no right to walk into a church and interfere with a priest’s sermon, yet they feel they can deliberately interfere and bully people into not voting BNP. The church has a long history of interfering in the BNP’s business, and we’ll finish it on June 4 when we’ll be elected to the European Parliament. There is a big gulf between church leaders and ordinary Catholics.” ON A EUROPEAN tour to promote ecological initiatives Prince Charles and his wife, Camilla, have met Pope Benedict XVI for the first time.
The three spent 15 minutes on Monday speaking privately before the Prince introduced members of his entourage and exchanged gifts with Pope Benedict.
The Pope gave the Prince a set of medals marking the just-entered fifth year of his pontificate and an etching of St Peter’s Basilica from the 1500s.
Presenting his gift to the Pope, Prince Charles said: “I don’t know that these will be of any help to you.” The gift was a set of 12 dessert plates with paintings of flowers grown at his Highgrove Estate. The plates are part of a collection of items the Prince sells to raise money for charity. The Prince and the Duchess of Cornwall also gave the Pope an autographed photo of themselves.
Prince Charles, 60, was dressed in a dark blue double-breasted suit while his 61-year-old wife wore a black silk dress, pearls and a black veil.
Prince Charles, along with his first wife, the late Princess Diana, met Pope John Paul II at the Vatican in 1985. He postponed his 2005 marriage to Camilla Parker-Bowles in order to attend Pope John Paul’s funeral. As the Pope walked him out of the library Prince Charles was overheard to say: “Such a wonderful man; we miss him terribly.”
Mary Kenny: Page 12