Feelings throughout the country and in Parliament continue to run high as I write this monthly letter and as we discover what kind of Brexit we want or indeed whether we want one at all. To offer any comment on the debate exposes one to support or attack depending on your point of view. What is certain is that we cannot distance ourselves from it because we will all be affected by the outcome.
One thing that has seriously troubled me in the debate is the way both sides try to woo us by challenging the threat to our individual prosperity; Financial losses in our household is sure to make us sit up and think and may make us support the ‘stay-in’ position. The plea that the billions we send to Europe could be used for the NHS is never accompanied in the Brexit camp with comment on how much we receive.
What I find fearsome is the way we think as a Nation on both sides in that we have lost the moral position that bids us think of others before ourselves which is rooted in our Christian heritage. I get the feeling that Brexit will overshadow the Christian Aid Week drive and as a result the really poor of this world will suffer more. The history of Christian Europe has been ensnared within its politics and the new thinking, theologically, cosmologically and territorially brought about a Reformation that broke up what had been a united Christian Community.
No generation since has been able to heal that fragmentation. It is always easier to fall-out than to make-up. Broken Christendom learnt to define itself by its differences rather than looking for the things we have in common.
There is much we can learn from this. There are those who are comfortable living on an island with the mentality of islanders but there are others who cherish the bonds we have with our European brothers and sisters and who fear as many of us do what a withdrawal from the European Union might mean, not only now, but also in the future. The end to border control, free trade, sharing resources and culture is something our generation has enjoyed. While some have hoped for a federation of states in Europe others have been anxious that distinctive national cultures and traditions have been sacrificed. Is this not all part of the debate which I think ought to be going on from within the Union rather than opting out? The issues of security are real for all of us under the shadow of militant Islam which has created an atmosphere of civil war across the continent, and the politicians are at a loss as to how to deal with this. The policy allowing the free movement of peoples is now not so much the possibility it was and which we have enjoyed but is now more an ideal in the fast changing circumstances involving the huge movement of peoples. It needs to be revisited. Such policy making, in my view, needs to be done collaboratively.
I hope that you all will continue to pray hard for right decisions to be made in whatever the outcome is which will affect our future. While it is taking considerable energy and time I hope we will be able to rise above these local issues and not loose sight of the global challenges that face us all.
Canon Andrew Gough – Vicar