DEMOCRACY is a privilege, the Archbishop of Canterbury has warned, and we must “accept the result” of the referendum without using it as an “excuse for prejudice and hate-filled acts” against our neighbours.
Archbishop Welby was speaking to more than 100 young people, including students from Westminster Academy, Jewish Free School, King Soloman High School, and Ernest Bevin College in London, at Lambeth Palace on Monday to celebrate the opening of the Iftar — the evening meal at which Muslims end their daily Ramadan fast at sunset, the time of the call to prayer.
He also welcomed the Chief Rabbi, Ephraim Mirvis, and the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, who is the first Muslim to hold the post. It is the second time Archbishop Welby has hosted an Iftar at the Palace.
“We will stand together against discrimination and hatred,” he said, “that is absolutely crucial for the future of this country, and for rebuilding it with a new vision of what it means to be outward-looking, generous, hospitable, powerful in doing good, strong in resisting evil.”
The Archbishop said that the UK is clearly divided after a “bruising” election campaign. He condemned racial and verbal abuse in the wake of Brexit, in particular against the Polish community in London (see story p?), and urged faith communities to join together in solidarity.
“Let us be those who stand up and speak out and especially at this time. It makes a huge difference to build relationships at every level — to make public declarations.”
Mr Khan, who has passionately condemned the abuse, agreed. He said in his speech on Monday that young and old of all faiths must stand together and respond to divisions with love and respect.
“Having empathy for one another is what the month of Ramadan is all about; it is a time of sacrifice, for reflection and for humility, to put yourselves in the shoes of others.”
He went on: “When asked what the greatest commandment was, Jesus replied, ‘Love thy neighbour’ — not thy Christian neighbour, thy neighbour. Islam, Christianity, Judaism, Sikhism, Buddhism, Hinduism and beyond: being united rather than divided is essential to the teaching of so many of the faiths. In recent days and weeks these principles have been put to the test.”
Mr Khan later told the Church Times: “Religious communities have so much to offer: the philanthropic work, the charity work, social action. But we should not simply tolerate each other — you tolerate toothache — we should be respected, celebrated and embraced.
“The Church community here in London are a great example, in the majority, yet putting out the hand of friendship to be approachable, and to make citizens into active citizens so they can do their bit as well.”
The Chief Rabbi also praised and encouraged interfaith relations.“We are brothers and sisters in different groups coming together in great unity,” he said.