21 May 2004


"However brutal the challenge of racism, we never lose heart."

The Rev. David Deeks, General Secretary of The Methodist Church, will call for "hope, not hate" at this weekend's Unite Against Fascism event in North London. Mr. Deeks will join a range of speakers including Simon Hughes MP and Nicky Gavron at the event, which will also feature music, poetry and children's activities. It takes place at Ponders End Recreation Ground on Sunday 23 May from 1-6pm. Other speakers include Claude Moraes MEP and Francis O'Grady, Deputy General Secretary of the TUC.

Mr. Deeks will say that, despite differences in beliefs and ways of worship, all the great world faiths "want to work together for the common good. We stand shoulder to shoulder against discrimination of every kind. For us all, God is the creator of every single human being."

Mr. Deeks will call for hope for the future, rather than hatred of others. "We know what we are against: we challenge the evil of racism. We know what we are for: we believe in human societies that are enriched when people live together in peace, and where all are welcomed - especially the stranger.

"We know what we hope. However brutal the challenge of racism, however vicious may be any campaign of hatred and division, we never lose heart. Our dream is God's dream. So it can become real. We have nothing to fear from one another. Our message therefore is this: Hope, not Hate."

The Methodist Church, along with other churches and faith groups, has been active in countering political extremism and racism. Individuals, ministers and groups have worked, both alone or with other churches, to raise awareness of the importance of voting and the dangers of extremism.  

· The Methodist Church in Bradford is one of a group of local churches issuing Rainbow Ribbons to all their congregations. These will be worn as a statement of inclusivity and against divisive politics.
· The Revd Paul Flowers, Superintendent of the Bradford (Great Horton) circuit, recently told the West Yorkshire Synod to vote tactically in order to prevent any BNP gains. He said that the best defence against extremism is voting: "not voting only aids the BNP, but a higher turnout will hurt them."
· The North Lancashire District Synod has asked all of its churches to prepare materials on the elections and encourage people to vote. The district churches will produce and distribute material before postal ballots arrive in voters' homes in the week beginning 23 May.
· The Revd Geoff Reid runs the Methodist Touchstone centre in Bradford and has been busy alerting the area to the dangers posed by the BNP. He says, "the simple message we need to get across is that this is not just another political party with the mainstream parties ganging up against it. It is a political party that in its constitution and core beliefs is contrary to Christian gospel and hostile to the basic tenets of democracy itself."
· In Clitheroe, Lancashire, the Methodist Circuit of churches was part of an ecumenical and inter-faith campaign at the last local election aimed at countering apathy and extremism. The campaign helped boost turnout to over 50% and ensure that no extremist candidates won.
· In Sheffield, the Superintendent of the Brunswick Circuit organised a letter signed by 10 church leaders from many denominations warning against voting for racist parties.

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