29th June 2016

Responding to the Referendum

Photo: Joris Louwes

Photo: Joris Louwes.

The EU Referendum has seen a divisive campaign, folowed by a divisive result.  In this time of uncertainty, Quakers and many other faith groups have responded by calling for people to come together, and face our shared future with love and compassion.

Peace Hub would like to share these statements in the hope of promoting positive dialogue at this turbulent time.

Statement from Quakers in Britain:

“The outcome of the EU referendum and the campaigning that led up to it have shown up and sometimes exacerbated divisions within and between our communities.  There is now a great need for bridge-building, for reaching out to one another in love, trusting that below the political differences lie a shared humanity and a wish for flourishing communities.

Inequalities run deep in society and some are exposed by the vote. Quakers in England, Scotland and Wales are committed to working together and with others – including Quakers across Europe – for a peaceful and just world.  In the coming year our Quaker Yearly Meeting will focus on building movements with others locally and globally. We refuse to prejudge who is or is not an ally.

Turbulent times can be frightening, but the Spirit is a source of strength for all, guiding us in who we are and what we do. We take heart from the knowledge that with change comes opportunity. We will look for creative ways to find common cause, to listen, to influence and to persuade. As the status quo is shaken we and our neighbours must look to one another for support, wisdom and above all ways of healing divisions.”

Quakers in Europe, and many other faith groups have also responded.

Please click on the name of each group to see their statement:

Quaker Council for European Affairs

The Quaker Council for European Affairs (QCEA) has commented on the result of the UK’s EU membership referendum. QCEA has also provided a quiet space for reflection in Brussels since the result was announced.

Leaving the EU

“The UK has decided to step away from an organisation which acts as a mechanism for dialogue, and which is a pillar of peace in Europe and the world. More effort is now needed find ways to keep peace in Europe and to preserve the positive. In particular we should endeavour to ensure that the UK does not withdraw from the European Convention of Human Rights”, said Andrew Lane, Representative at QCEA.

“Europe, including the UK, will be in greater need of Quaker values as an antidote to an emboldened far-right and to increased division and volatility that will be felt worst by the most vulnerable.” he said.

“The UK has voted to leave the EU, but cannot leave Europe, and nor can it walk away from very real global challenges. Without the EU, the UK needs to find other ways to work in an integrated way with countries in Europe and beyond to address war, poverty and climate change”, Andrew said.

Reflection at Quaker House

Immediately after the result was announced QCEA opened the doors of Quaker House Brussels for anyone affected or worried about the UK leaving the EU. QCEA recognised that many UK nationals working within the EU institutions will have the course of their, and their family’s, lives and careers changed by the referendum result. QCEA set aside space for quiet reflection, but also welcomed visitors who wanted to share their shock and sadness.

World Council of Churches

The central committee of the World Council of Churches (WCC), meeting on 22-28 June 2016 in Trondheim, Norway, under the theme “Pilgrimage: Discerning the Landscapes Together”, received news of the outcome of the United Kingdom referendum on European Union membership as we began a discussion on the search for Christian unity.

This decision by a majority of UK voters commits the country to ending its 43-year long membership of the European Union. This presents a challenge to all European leaders and European institutions, and has ramifications far beyond the region. During these days together in Trondheim, members of the central committee – representing WCC member churches from around the world – are reflecting and praying together to discern the path forward in this new landscape.

The situation calls for wise and measured leadership in the UK, regionally and internationally, and ecumenical solidarity, respecting the democratic expression of the collective will of the people of the UK, and re-examining fundamental questions of values and identity. But it is clear that the UK cannot, by withdrawing from EU membership, isolate itself from the challenges facing the region and the world, including the political crisis in receiving refugees and migrants, and that collective reflection and action will be no less necessary to address those challenges in the interest of building human community.

The Conference of European Churches (CEC), as the leading regional expression of the ecumenical movement and of its calling to promote Christian unity in witness and action, will have a special role to play in accompanying the churches and peoples of Europe in discerning the direction of the pilgrimage of justice and peace in this new landscape. We are concerned that rising xenophobic forms of nationalism threaten the common values of Europe. But we affirm the hope expressed by CEC President Rt Rev. Christopher Hill that the churches “will be able to revitalize a vision for Europe much broader than the mere economic, a vision informed by a Christian understanding of society which looks to the common good of all, supporting human rights and inclusive communities without collapsing into purely individualistic demands”.

All WCC member churches are invited to pray for God’s guidance and wisdom for religious, political and community leaders in the UK, in Europe and around the world.

Conference of European Churches

Yesterday, 23 June, the United Kingdom held a referendum on its membership in the EU. Citizens were asked to vote on the question, “Should the United Kingdom remain a member of the European Union or leave the European Union?” By a narrow margin of a few percentage points, voters decided in favour of leaving the economic and political union of 28 European countries.

From its origins more than 50 years ago, the Conference of European Churches has been a bridge-building organisation, committed to unity and overcoming political divisions in Europe. The fragmented and divided Europe of the 1940s and 1950s prompted church leaders to bring together churches separated by difference political, economic, and social systems. It is to these roots CEC has turned in its recent open letter, “What future for Europe?” Here CEC invites all churches in Europe—within and outside the EU—to a new conversation about our common future and the role of churches in shaping the ethics and values that guide life in Europe.

From his home in the United Kingdom, CEC President Rt Rev. Christopher Hill KCVO, DD reflected on the outcome of yesterday’s vote:

By a narrow margin the UK Referendum (a reported 51.9% voting leave) has recommended to its Parliament that the UK should leave the EU.  As President of CEC but also as a bishop of the Church of England, I am proud that my passport as a British subject also has European Union as part of it title, I deeply regret the result and also the manner of the Referendum.  This in spite of Church leadership in England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland being supportive.  There are no doubt real issues to discuss and these issues are not only debated in the UK but in many member states of the EU.  But many of the allegations, especially over migration issues which were decisive in the Referendum, bear no relation to the actual facts and the tone – at least in the UK – has often been hysterical rather than rational, not least amongst ‘popularist’ parties and some sections of the press.  A major task for CEC now, in which the UK Churches remain strong supporting members, will be to contribute to such a rational debate, starting with the already existing dialogue within our member Churches throughout Europe, including those Churches in member states on the southern and eastern borders of the EU. In addition, CEC can be a space where UK Churches can reassure our partners in the wider Europe that we still believe in the establishment of structures for peace, justice and stability across our one Continent and indeed that such structures serve for global wellbeing as well as our own.

Above all I hope the churches – including our partners in the Catholic Church – will be able to revitalize a vision for Europe much broader than the mere economic, a vision informed by a Christian understanding of society which looks to the common good of all, supporting human rights and inclusive communities without collapsing into purely individualistic demands, and understands (from the inside of faith) the need for dialogue between faiths and all people of good will.  Now that the high profile campaign is over, I look for this serious discourse as urgent for the future of Europe as well as the UK.

The Joint Public Issues Team

The Joint Public Issues Team (JPIT) have issued the following reflection and prayer. JPIT works with the Methodist Church, the United Reformed Church, Baptist Union and the Church of Scotland on issues of justice and inequality.

He has told you, O mortal, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God? (Micah 6:8)

This week the people of the UK have made the significant decision to leave the European Union. Across our communities, including in churches, some will face this with dismay; others with celebration. We are already seeing some of the political consequences, including the decision by David Cameron to stand down as Prime Minister later this year.

The pattern of voting has revealed differences within the British people which will be interpreted in various ways. These should not become the tools of division, but spur us to find the common resolve and respect to overcome them. Together we are facing a time of significant change.

Whatever view we might hold about the referendum result, this is a time to recognise that the wellbeing of the UK and its people does not solely depend on its place in the European Union. Fairness and justice for all were never going to be the automatic consequences of being inside or outside a particular institution. They will only become realities if, as a country and as citizens, we intentionally pursue them both at home and abroad.

Our aims for the kind of society we want to live in remain the same. People disagreed whether the kinds of issues we will continue to face – climate change, peace and security, sustainable agriculture, welfare, trade and the movement of people – would be better dealt with by being in or out. We have voted for out. But the aim of pursuing a just society has not changed. After months of sometimes damaging debate we must recommit ourselves to work together for the common good.

Many of the issues we face cannot be effectively addressed in isolation from our near neighbours or indeed worldwide partners. While the structures may change our work towards justice and peace must continue alongside our European sisters and brothers.

We believe that every human being is made in the image of God. Any narrative that undermines this, or promotes division and discrimination, runs contrary to the values of God’s Kingdom. Our prayer is that we might turn away from the language of fear or self-interest and recommit to this sense of our common humanity.

We now face an inevitable process of change, and with that will come uncertainty. As a people of faith, we can draw strength from recognising that God’s purposes prevail beyond any political alliance or union. As God’s Word expresses the intent that every nation shall be blessed, we have a place within the wider world that includes a responsibility towards those who are the most impoverished and needy.

As the implications of this historic decision continue to emerge, we call upon those who lead us to do justice, to love mercy and to walk humbly in the ways of God’s Kingdom.

God of every nation and people,

At this historic moment we pray for all who are affected by the decision that we have made.

Whatever differences this has revealed within our own society, may they not eclipse what we have in common.

Where the narratives of political debate have caused harm and division help us to reclaim the true values of our shared humanity.

Where exaggeration and distortion have generated suspicion and fear may truth and honesty restore hope and goodness.

We pray for all the nations of Europe, that you will help us to find ways of living and working together to pursue the mercy and justice that you require.

We recommit ourselves – together – to the values of your eternal Kingdom and pray that along with all people we might help your world become more as you intended.


The Church of England

Archbishop Justin Welby and Archbishop John Sentamu (Archbishops of Canterbury & York) have issued the following joint statement after the UK voted to leave the European Union:

On Thursday, millions of people from across the United Kingdom voted in the Referendum, and a majority expressed a desire that Britain’s future is to be outside the European Union

The outcome of this referendum has been determined by the people of this country. It is now the responsibility of the Government, with the support of Parliament, to take full account of the outcome of the referendum, and, in the light of this, decide upon the next steps. This morning, the Prime Minister David Cameron has offered a framework for when this process might formally begin.

The vote to withdraw from the European Union means that now we must all reimagine both what it means to be the United Kingdom in an interdependent world and what values and virtues should shape and guide our relationships with others.

As citizens of the United Kingdom, whatever our views during the referendum campaign, we must now unite in a common task to build a generous and forward looking country, contributing to human flourishing around the world. We must remain hospitable and compassionate, builders of bridges and not barriers. Many of those living among us and alongside us as neighbours, friends and work colleagues come from overseas and some will feel a deep sense of insecurity. We must respond by offering reassurance, by cherishing our wonderfully diverse society, and by affirming the unique contribution of each and every one.

The referendum campaign has been vigorous and at times has caused hurt to those on one side or the other. We must therefore act with humility and courage – being true to the principles that make the very best of our nation. Unity, hope and generosity will enable us to overcome the period of transition that will now happen, and to emerge confident and successful. The opportunities and challenges that face us as a nation and as global citizens are too significant for us to settle for less.

As those who hope and trust in the living God, let us pray for all our leaders, especially for Prime Minister David Cameron in his remaining months in office. We also pray for leaders across Europe, and around the world, as they face this dramatic change. Let us pray especially that we may go forward to build a good United Kingdom that, though relating to the rest of Europe in a new way will play its part amongst the nations in the pursuit of the common good throughout the world.

The Catholic Church

Cardinal Vincent Nichols (President of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales) has given the following statement after the announcement of the EU referendum result to leave the European Union:

‘A great tradition of the United Kingdom is to respect the will of the people, expressed at the ballot box. Today we set out on a new course that will be demanding on all.

‘Our prayer is that all will work in this task with respect and civility, despite deep differences of opinion. We pray that in this process the most vulnerable will be supported and protected, especially those who are easy targets for unscrupulous employers and human traffickers.

‘We pray that our nations will build on our finest traditions of generosity, of welcome for the stranger and shelter for the needy.

‘We now must work hard to show ourselves to be good neighbours and resolute contributors in joint international efforts to tackle the critical problems of our world today.’

The Coptic Orthodox Church

Statement by His Grace Bishop Angaelos, General Bishop of the Coptic Orthodox Church in the United Kingdom, following the results of the EU Referendum:

Over this past week, the United Kingdom has experienced a series of significant, challenging and sometimes painful milestones. With the long-awaited results of the EU referendum, and the tragic death of Jo Cox MP in the lead-up, emotions are high and there is potential for hostility and divisiveness to flourish. There is however the more positive outcome that these events serve as a catalyst for a greater unity and collective stance for the good of all.

While Jo’s tragic and wasteful death was unequivocally horrific and heart-breaking, it also gave rise to overwhelming acts of generosity from the general public and unrivalled comradery in the Houses of Parliament. This tragedy also sparked a significant conversation on the importance of solidarity and indiscriminate compassion for humanity, with the hashtags #LoveLikeJo and #MoreInCommon emerging to diffuse divisive rhetoric and promote understanding in the public sphere.

It is in this light and sentiment, with the outcome of the EU referendum that the United Kingdom must now pull together, as it has so often done in the past, despite clear differences in opinion and direction. Division must not be allowed to take hold, and divisive rhetoric must not take root. While many would have preferred to see the UK remain in the EU, now is the time for us all as a nation to accept the decision that we have reached together through the democratic processes we have upheld for centuries, and indeed advocate for across the world. It is important for us to commence the healing process that is needed after these months of committed campaigning, and to comfort all who are now fearful of the future, and suffering the distress of uncertainty, especially due to the immediate effects on the economy.

Regardless of what the future holds for the United Kingdom we can be certain that we are in the hands of a mighty God Who is unchanging and with us throughout our various challenges. It is our role as Christians, not only to be stewards and active citizens within our countries, but to provide holistic support for all who find these events overwhelming and distressing.

We pray for the Prime Minister, our parliament, and all those entrusted with the leadership of these great nations, confident that the United Kingdom will find a way to embark on this new stage in history, together united.

The Methodist Church

The Revd Steve Wild and Dr Jill Barber, the President and Vice-President of the Methodist Conference, have released the following joint statement following the EU referendum:

The people have spoken through the democratic process. We recognise that the result will cause pain to some people who voted with passion and integrity and that now is the time to move forward together with goodwill. The structures have changed but our hopes for a fair, just and equal society continue. We must now gather the political will to tackle poverty, climate change and the refugee crisis.

This Referendum has shown both the best and the worst of our democracy. It is to be celebrated that major constitutional change has happened peacefully and transparently; something that is all too rare in the world even today. We are saddened that the referendum debate has at times promoted a feelings of fear and even hatred and racism. We do not believe that most people, however they voted in the referendum, wanted this. It certainly does not represent the kind of country that Britain wants to be. We must be careful now that these narratives do not shape the way that we do politics in the future.

As the future of our role in the EU is negotiated, we cannot cut ourselves off from Europe. We pray for our brothers and sisters in Europe, and particular in our sister Churches, and assure them that our love and commitment towards them is undiminished.


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