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Friday, 6 August 2010

Bradford churches urge people not to be fooled by EDL group aiming to march

Church leaders in Bradford have urged people not to be fooled into thinking the English Defence League exists to defend Christian values.

The EDL is planning to hold a demonstration in Bradford on Saturday, August 28, but a petition calling for the march to be banned is set to be delivered to Home Secretary Theresa May.

Today, the Churches for Bradford group outlined its views on the EDL in a joint statement signed by the Reverend Barbara Glasson, of the Methodist Church, the Reverend Chris Howson, City Mission Priest, the Very Reverend David Ison, Dean of Bradford, and Father John Newman, of the Roman Catholic Church.

The group said: “Don’t be deceived – the EDL is not Christian.

“Let’s be clear: there are real debates to be had about the nature of British society, and how people of different cultures and faiths (or no faith) can live together in mutual respect while managing our inevitable differences in a civil and non-violent way.

“We also need to allow for principled dissent to aspects of British foreign policy in the Middle East and South Asia, while supporting the brave men and women who risk their lives for our country. However, the EDL is hijacking some genuine concerns for their own agenda.”

The Churches for Bradford group questioned why the EDL called themselves ‘English’ and not ‘British’, claming it was because many Muslims were proud to be British, along with other people in this country of Asian or African heritage.

The joint statement said: “Using the word ‘English’ is a hidden way of emphasising the priority of those with white ancestry. We should rather value all British people for who they are, and show the tolerance and acceptance for which the rest of the world has so often admired us.

“How would the EDL ‘defend’ us? Their badge quotes the motto of the (Yorkshire) Emperor Constantine, who conquered the Roman Empire by force, with a cross as his standard.

“But the Christian cross is utterly different from this. It stands for a God who comes in his Son to suffer and die for us, to win us over by love – not by violence and conquest. St George was actually a brown-skinned Palestinian who died for his faith in Jesus, who is revered by many Muslims as well as by Christians.”

Churches for Bradford added that the way to encourage mutual respect between religions and communities was not by provocative demonstrations, but by getting to know and understand each other.

The statement said: “This is how to defeat extremists, whether nationalist or religious.”

Churches for Bradford said it was “ironic” that the EDL wanted to stop Muslim women wearing the veil in public, but then sold ‘burka hoodies’ and red-and-white face masks on their website, so as to hide their own faces from others.

The church leaders said anyone who was concerned about genuine issues the EDL exploited should not stoop to the EDL’s level.

“Instead, get engaged with your neighbours,” said the group.

Churches for Bradford concluded: “We value our country immensely. We believe that the Christian faith has profoundly shaped our heritage and has something unique to offer to everyone in the world. And we believe in the words of Archbishop Desmond Tutu, that ‘good is stronger than evil, and love is stronger than hate.”

Telegraph and Argus