One of the positive and widely embracing post EU Referendum initiatives in my own neck of the woods, Southend-on-Sea, goes under the title “More in Common”. Check out their Facebook page (click here). The following introductory blurb is self explanatory and gives a good idea of what is behind the thinking …
“I think it’s fair to say that the last month has knocked many people’s confidence in the Britain they know and love. From the brutal murder of Jo Cox, to some of the toxic images and messages distributed during the Referendum campaign, as well as the reports of hostility and even hate crimes against Europeans living and working in Britain since the announcement of the result, there’s a feeling that something has changed for the worse. It would be a huge mistake to assume that the vast majority of people who voted to leave the EU were motivated by racism. People voted to leave for a whole number of reasons, only some of which were related to concerns about immigration. In fact, there is a danger that such an assumption will actually push people from working-class communities who voted heavily for Brexit towards the politics of fear and hate at the very time we should be reaching out and helping them step away from such negativity. Later this week, HopeNotHate will launch a campaign called #MoreInCommon to bring divided communities together and challenge the narratives of fear and hate…”
Being tied up as I am elsewhere, I was unable to attend last night’s inaugural meeting, and while I suspect this may not entirely resonate with many who did attend, I felt I should at least set out my own stall, for the start of any dialogue is listening to what the other person has to say. If it is true we do have more in common e.g. in wanting to promote hope as opposed to despair and love as opposed to hate, then already we have significant common ground to do things together that benefit our communities.
Regarding the EU referendum, I was and still am an unapologetic “Leaver” and believe that now the people have voted in a fair election that their instructions need heeding without further ado.
Racism of any kind is utterly unacceptable and it was horrible to witness post referendum racist incidents. My record on dealing with those from BME (Black and Minority Ethnic) communities, including other religions, speaks for itself. Some of it is contained in my book: “Outside the Camp” and other writings, including blogs.
While immigration was one of my issues for my wanting to leave, I could have left out this out entirely and still come down with a Leave decision. It seems to me this became an issue when former communist countries, led by Poland, joined the EU in 2004, and the then politically motivated UK Labour government allowed more in from those countries than they needed to. At the same time I was working among genuine asylum seekers, e.g. from Zimbabwe, and found the way they were treated by government, who wanted to be seen as tough on immigration, as abysmal, if not wicked.
My view on treating foreigners that come to settle in my country, whether temporarily or permanently, is based on the Levitical law and amounts to showing Christian hospitality and treating them like one of our own. While I buy the argument that foreigners, when taken overall, give more to the UK economy than they take from it, I take the view that until we have invested sufficiently in our national infrastructure like schools, hospitals and housing, we have to be selective in who we do take in, something currently under terms of our EU membership we cannot do. I am not entirely unsympathetic to those who believe accepting notions of multiculturalism and political correctness has had an overall negative impact.
I subscribe to the great command that we should love our neighbour as ourselves. I would be interested to learn of ideas and initiative by those in the More in Common network on how best we can go about this, especially in the light of the xenophobic hate we are have been recently witnessing on the streets. My own practice involves helping the homeless, including a fair number who are immigrants. Our challenge is to put this in practice in our every day dealings.
I like the “More in Common” idea, which has formed an important part of my community activist philosophy. By uniting behind such an idea means that persons and groups with widely differing ideologies can do things together that benefit our communities. However, I do have worries, that no ideological grouping should hold sway to the extent that those who do not subscribe to the ideology of the dominant group feel so alienated they feel unable to be associated. Considering the six traditionally recognised equality groupings: race, religion, gender, disability, age and sexual orientation, it has been my experience people from all sides of the six groupings are committed to sacrificially serving the community, and while we may sometimes profoundly disagree we do well to try to understand those whose perspectives differ from our own. It is my hope that More in Common will bring together all “sides” and thereby make a difference, including in ways already outlined.
Of the two organisations that have been particularly involved in the More in Common initiative, I fully support CAST (Communities and Asylum Seekers Together) (see here) and partly support Hope not Hate (see here). While I applaud some of the good work they have done to promote their philosophy, I sense they remain biased toward the Left as opposed to the Right of political thought. More significantly, I regret their unrestricted support of abortion and believe this does the opposite to what they declare on the tin.