THE diocese of Birmingham is supporting the launch of a campaign, Love Your Neighbour, to challenge racism and encourage unity in the wake of the Brexit vote.
More than 600 hate crimes have been reported to the police since the EU referendum result on 24 June — up from an average of 63 in that time-period. Racist abuse has been directed in particular towards foreign nationals, and ethnic-minority groups, on public transport, public buildings, in the street, and in their homes (News, 1 July).
Love Your Neighbour is a multi-faith initiative supported by churches, councils, businesses, schools, universities, and arts and community centres. Those involved can put up banners, change their Twitter profile pictures, and hand out stickers in and around their organisations to promote a positive message: “Love your neighbour.”
The campaign will also be available online, where participants can print posters, and download resources and ideas on how to encourage kindness in their communities. It was launched outside the Council House in Birmingham, last Friday, by the Bishop of Birmingham, the Rt Revd David Urquhart, who has released a prayer for its success.
He said: “All of us, whichever way we voted, now face a period of uncertainty and insecurity. . . As followers of Jesus Christ we are clearly called to love our neighbour, whoever they are. We cannot love our neighbour if we do not know our neighbour, understand them and their culture, faith and identity.”
It came as the Archbishop of Canterbury; the Chief Rabbi, Ephraim Mirvis; and the Archbishop of Westminster, Cardinal Vincent Nichols, condemned the recent abuse in a joint letter to The Times last Friday. They wrote that reports of escalating discord and racial hatred were a cause for “the gravest concern”, and that prejudices must be challenged.
“When fear sets in, it is no more than human nature to seek comfort in the familiar,” they wrote. “But such fear must not be allowed to breed mistrust of ‘the other’. . . For all that lies outside of our personal control, every person has the power to conquer their own instinct to apportion blame to others for perceived injustice.”
They called on the British public to “recognise personal accountability for their every action, rather than avoiding that responsibility by looking for scapegoats, and to challenge racial and communal prejudice wherever it is found and thus ensure that we are, more than ever, a country united.”
Elsewhere, in Dorset, hundreds gathered in Bournemouth Square over the weekend as part of a peaceful protest against racism, and to show solidarity with migrants. In Parliament Square, Westminster, more than 50,000 took part in a demonstration, “March for Europe”, against the referendum result.