Saturday, 16 April 2016

Christians for Europe

Yesterday was the first official day of the EU referendum campaign. To mark the occasion, we launched our new website "Christians for Europe". Our aim is to put a Christian case for the United Kingdom to remain within the European Union. You can find us at https://christiansforeurope.org/.

Regular visitors to this blog will recognise a family likeness. Our new site is a descendant of the original campaign Twitter feed @Xians4EU and its Facebook sibling. They have both attracted a lot of interest and support. They have linked followers to news and comment, articles, resources and blogs about the referendum. They have offered their own "take" on developments and interacted with others contributing on social media. We have been noticed by the church media and invited to comment.

However, we have recognised that we need a more permanent presence in cyberspace. Hence this new website. It's a forum where we can post news, comment and opinion about the referendum, invite response and discussion, link to other sites that are relevant to our aims. What we hope is that Christians for Europe will be a place of lively, intelligent debate informed by the insights of faith. We are convinced that Christianity "speaks truth to power". We believe that it has vital wisdom to contribute to our discussions about what kind of nation we aspire to be, and what it means to be the United Kingdom in both a European and a global setting. Whatever we believe about the EU, we must all recognise that in our contemporary world, isolation from the human family is simply not conceivable.

In particular, we believe that Christian theology points us in the direction of integration, not fragmentation. We believe the gospel looks forward to "a single new humanity" in which the human race is reconciled and at peace with itself. All inter-governmental agencies that promote deeper, more wholesome international relations are to be welcomed. The EU is not a perfect expression of this aspiration but we do believe that it represents the best attempt yet to create a lasting neighbourliness in our continent. That can only be good for our world.

We are not utopian about this. The EU is no more an expression of the kingdom of God than any other human institution. It is flawed, and recent challenges from the weakness of the Euro to the refugee crisis have painfully exposed its shortcomings. Those who look for greater transparency in its processes have a point. 

Nevertheless, we are convinced that far from walking away from a project intended to put freedom, humanity and social justice at the heart of our nations' lives, we should embrace the opportunities the EU gives to make a real and lasting contribution not only to the European family of nations but to the world. It is purely self-interest to say "yes" to the benefits of membership. But it becomes enlightened self-interest as we also say "yes" to all that we have to give to the EU as committed leading European players. And as Christians, when we say "yes", we want to say it with confidence, conviction and hope.

You'll have noticed that we've rebranded ourselves. We are now "Christians for Europe", not just "4EU" though that remains the Twitter handle. It's a small but significant change. Of course we are "for" the EU in the sense that we want to urge everyone to vote "yes - let's remain". But that could make it sound as though the EU were an end in itself. Which of course it's not. It's being Europeans that matters most - thinking of ourselves as not simply British but belonging to something bigger, the continent to which we have been so closely connected through trade, politics, culture, scholarship and recreation for so many centuries.

And this is where we need to raise the game when it comes to the referendum. If only we could talk not just about the pluses and minuses of the institution we call the European Union, but about what it is all ultimately for, and why being Europeans ought to be something not to be reticent about but to celebrate. That's our hope at least.

Meanwhile, when you'll visit the site, you'll find an impressive line-up of people in public life who are endorsing Christians for Europe: bishops, politicians of all parties, Christian secular leaders from different traditions and walks of life, theologians and others. We are grateful to the LibDem Christian Forum for hosting and managing the site for us. This is part of its contribution to this all-party effort that is bringing people of faith together in support of the UK's continuing membership of the EU. We are excited and hopeful as we embark on this journey through the coming weeks of the referendum campaign. We hope you'll jump aboard!

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