Published on Monday, 24 December 2012 12:07 Written by Sonia Gable
Whatever Christmas means for you – the celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ, renewing ties with extended family, enjoyment of good food in the company of others, a rest from work or campaigning, TV specials, or just a lull before the winter sales – I hope you have a good one.
I have no hesitation in wishing you a happy Christmas rather than use a religiously neutral phrase. Recently published figures from the 2011 census reveal that 59% of people in England and Wales still describe themselves as Christian, though that is down by 13 percentage points since 2001. Of the 25% who have no religion, most celebrate Christmas in some form, as do many adherents of other religions. Celebrating Christmas is not to disrespect other religions and their festivals. The hugely diverse primary school where I am a governor marks all the main festivals celebrated by the religions represented among the children: Eid, Diwali, Hanukkah, Christmas etc. Although Christians are a minority in the school, there was a nativity scene and Christmas tree in the reception area at the end of last term. Knowing and respecting one another’s beliefs is part of the children’s education.
I have no religion myself, but I found resonance in the words of Pope Benedict in an extract from Jesus of Nazareth: The Infancy Narrative reproduced in The Times on 22 December. Writing about the biblical narrative of the three Magi – wise men or kings – who journeyed to see the baby Jesus, he said: “In the kingdom of Jesus Christ there are no distinctions of race and origin. In and through the black king humanity is united, yet without losing any of the richness of variety.” The British National Party purports to be Christian, constantly wheeling out its fake reverend Robert West, but with racism at its core it is diametrically opposed to the principles of Christianity. Although the BNP often claims it is opposed to immigration because Britain is overcrowded and there aren’t enough jobs or houses, or on the ridiculous grounds that sharia will somehow be imposed on an unwilling majority that includes most British Muslims, the real reason is that the party hates the rich variety of humanity now represented in our country.
That core racism was apparent in the BNP leader’s Christmas message. Seated at a table set with a huge plate, wine glass, two Christmas crackers and a pair of china angels, a glass of what looked like whisky in front of him and his back to a wood-burning stove, Griffin claimed the BNP had had a good year (well it survived) but that London was difficult electorally because there are “very few of our people left” in the capital (my emphasis). He ended with the words “our country is in peril … our freedom and our very identity are in mortal danger”.
The BNP does not currently represent an electoral threat but it has not gone away, its revival at some stage cannot be ruled out and it has the potential, with its increasing number of street protests about which Griffin waxed lyrical in his Christmas message, to cause community tension. After our Christmas and New Year break, let’s come back with renewed vigour to ensure the BNP and its rivals remain in the gutters where they belong.