Religious leaders from the UK’s main faith communities – including former archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams – have joined forces to oppose Brexit, saying the EU is vital to preserving peace, fighting poverty and tackling the migration crisis.
In a letter in the Observer, 37 leading figures from across the faiths say that they hope people will reflect, before voting on 23 June, “on whether undermining the international institutions charged with delivering these goals could conceivably contribute to a fairer, cleaner and safer world”.
The signatories include Rabbi Laura Janner-Klausner, the principal rabbi at the Movement for Reform Judaism; Bharti Tailor, executive director of the Hindu Forum of Europe; and Miqdaad Versi, assistant general secretary of the Muslim Council of Great Britain. Anglicans the Right Rev Paul Bayes, bishop of Liverpool, and the Right Rev Stephen Conway, bishop of Ely, also signed.
Members of the group, who say they signed in their personal capacities, write that “faith is about integration and building bridges, not about isolation and erecting barriers”.
They add: “As leaders and senior figures of faith communities, we urge our co-religionists and others to think about the implications of a Leave vote for the things about which we are most passionate.
“The past 70 years have been the longest period of peace in Europe’s history. Institutions that enable us to work together and understand both our differences and what we share in common contribute to our increased security and sense of collective endeavour.
“What’s more, so many of the challenges we face today can only be addressed in a European, and indeed a global, context: combating poverty in the developing world, confronting climate change and providing the stability that is essential to tackling the current migration crisis.”
Meanwhile, more than 13,000 businesses, including dating app Tinder, car hire service Uber and takeaway firm Deliveroo, will this week start encouraging their users to register to vote before the 7 June deadline.
Registration teams will also visit mosques throughout the country, and formal approaches will be made to the Jewish, Sikh, Hindu and Christian communities.
On Monday comedian Eddie Izzard will start a tour of universities in an attempt to get young people to register for the referendum and vote to stay in the EU. He will begin at Aston University in Birmingham. A recent poll by the National Union of Students found that 76% of students want to remain in the EU, with just 14% backing Brexit. But Ipsos MORI found 18- to 24-year-olds were much less likely to vote than the over-65s, at just 44% voting compared with 76%.
Izzard said: “We know the overwhelming majority of young people want to stay in Europe because of the opportunities it presents to work, to study and to travel. I share their positive view of Europe – I am a British European who has performed in German, French and Spanish.
“But if they are not registered, they can’t vote, and those opportunities will be taken away without them getting to have their say. It only takes two minutes to register on a smartphone, and it must be done by 7 June.”
Nick Lowles, chief executive of Hope not Hate, which is also running a registration campaign, said: “The young could decide the future of the referendum and, by default, the future direction of this country. It’s absolutely vital they get registered and have an opportunity to vote in this election.”
Campaigners are concerned that around 770,000 individuals, mostly young people, private renters and ethnic minorities, may have dropped off the electoral register since 2014, when the government moved from registration of electors by household to asking individuals to sign up.
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