UK Church Leaders Condemn 'Christian Values' March as 'Blasphemy'

Video screencap of Britain First march in Bury Park, Luton, posted online on January 23, 2016.
Video screencap of Britain First march in Bury Park, Luton, posted online on January 23, 2016. | (Photo: Britain First Facebook video screencap)

Church leaders from across the U.K. have condemned a "Christian values" march in Bedfordshire town by a far-right group that handed out anti-Islamic pamphlets.

Catholic Herald reported that the group, called Britain First, marched through the town carrying crosses with the aim to defend "Christian values," with former British National Party Councillor Paul Golding describing its mission as to maintain "British national sovereignty, independence and freedom."

The "Christian Patrol" march apparently went through what the group labeled an "Islamist hotspot," with members of Britain First handing out leaflets and arguing with local Muslims.

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Several different churches have spoken out against the group, however, claiming that it does not represent Christianity in Britain.

"Let's get this straight. Britain First do not speak for Christians. Their message of hate is entirely at odds with the Christian faith," a spokesman for the Evangelical Alliance said, according to the Huffington Post.

Fr, Damian Howard SJ of the Roman Catholic Church in Britain added: "It's extremely painful for any Christian when the name of Jesus Christ is hijacked to justify hatred and to spread fear and mistrust. It is actually a kind of blasphemy."

Howard affirmed that he had "no hesitation in denouncing their [Britain First's] crede and divisive tactics as totally contrary to the true spirit of Christian love."

He continued: "Catholics and others will follow the spiritual leadership of Pope Francis who encourages us all to welcome the stranger and to set out on the path of dialogue with people of other religions."

Church of England clergy, the largest denomination in Britain, have also previously spoken out against the group, when it came to plans in October to protest against the construction of a new mosque in Burton.

"We support, under the law, freedom of worship and religious assembly. We support, under the law, building for that purpose. We also support the right to legal civil protest," CofE clergy wrote in a statement back then, Burton Mail reported.

"What disturbs us is the implication that 'Britishness' and Islam should be seen as incompatible," they added. "We offer good wishes to our brothers and sisters in the Muslim community."

On its Facebook page, Britain First explains that it opposes "the colonisation of our homeland through immigration and support the maintenance of the indigenous British people as the demographic majority within our own homeland."

The major influx of refugees across Europe throughout 2015 has heightened religious and racial tensions in a number of countries.

Last week, Sweden announced that it will be rejecting the applications and deporting as many as 80,000 migrants, close to half of all who had applied for asylum in 2015. Germany, which welcomed in 1.1 million refugees last year, more than any other nation, has also announced it will be tightening up its asylum policies.

The U.K. government has been debating how many Syrian refugees to allow into its territory, with CofE bishops demanding that political leaders expand the number of allowed refugees from 20,000 to 50,000.

"From what we see in congregations across the United Kingdom we are confident that the country stands ready and willing to support the government to be even more ambitious as it responds to this historic crisis," read a letter from the bishops in September, addressed to Prime Minister David Cameron.

Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby has also strongly backed allowing in more refugees, telling Christians that Jesus Christ was a refugee fleeing war and persecution.

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