In response to the triggering of Article 50, a Working Party that represents Christian churches and denominations that are members of Cytûn: Churches Together in Wales has announced a list of principles which they say should be the foundation of the UK’s negotiating stance. These include protecting the status and rights of children and young people, the disabled and elderly. They say that Human Rights relating to the Welsh language and ethnic minorities must also be respected, as must legislation which protects the environment and the countryside – including the livelihood of those who work in rural industries.
The statement – issued by Cytûn (Churches Together in Wales) on behalf of the mainstream Christian denominations – adds that the deep rifts which became evident during the EU referendum must be recognised and healed.
“As leaving the European Union now becomes reality, we must support people whose lives are changed in ways that they would not have wished for,” said Dr Patrick Coyle, Chair of Cytûn, on behalf of the working party formed to prepare an authoritative Welsh Christian response to Brexit. “The dissatisfaction that the referendum exposed in communities that have not benefitted from globalisation must be understood and action taken to develop those areas. The suppressed racism and xenophobia that the referendum campaign uncovered must be confronted. The Churches will need to be there with those who need comfort and encouragement and above all to be peacemakers, reconcilers.”
The working party, formed at the request of the Union of Welsh Independent churches last summer, has already given evidence to four Welsh and UK Select Committees on this issue. “As we enter uncharted waters, politically, culturally and economically, it’s essential that we, as Christians, contribute in a constructive and robust manner to the debate and the democratic process,” said Dr Geraint Tudur, the Union’s General Secretary.
The Revd Carol Wardman of the Church in Wales added that many people were shocked by the vote to leave the EU in Wales, which has always been an outward-looking country with close ties to many other parts of the world. “Whilst it is important that Wales is not disadvantaged by the split from the EU, and that we maintain friendship and fellowship with our European neighbours, it is also important to recognise the inequality and disaffection which caused people in especially the poorest parts of Wales to vote for Brexit. The fellowship of Christ’s Church knows no boundaries, and it is the calling of Christians to bring about reconciliation – so the churches are ideally placed to reflect upon the current situation and consider how to move forward together in love.”
The Revd Denzil John, of Baptist Union of Wales, said that the working party had been a vehicle for the different denominations to find a common voice in their reaction to the changes that will happen in Wales following Brexit. “This is an opportunity for us to come to grips with some of the basic issues that challenge us as a nation, and to understand them in a European and global context.”
“In a period of uncertainty, the church has an important role to play by offering stability. As so many divisions appear and deepen in society, with the feeling of alienation from others becoming obvious, faith communities have a responsibility to serve and reconcile,” said Professor Noel Lloyd, of the Presbyterian Church of Wales.