Belfast Telegraph

Whatever your views on the EU, just make sure to cast your vote

Building bridges: Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Justin Welby, has publicly stated he will be voting to stay in Europe
Building bridges: Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Justin Welby, has publicly stated he will be voting to stay in Europe
Alf McCreary

By Alf McCreary

One of the often-quoted sentences in the Bible is: "You shall know the truth and the truth will set your free".

This has been used differently by many different people, including the late Rev Ian Paisley who adopted it as a mantra in his wrecking days before he decided to take a more constructive path.

It is a Bible text that could also apply to the current furore over the EU referendum. This has reached the point where I have never met so many people who are still not clear about which way they will vote.

This is partly because the arguments from both sides merely counter each other out. Politicians are difficult to believe at the best of times but in the last few weeks the politicians of all parties have done a great disservice to themselves, to politics and to what they believe in by hurling insults at one another.

The Churches have tried to keep above the political fray, though both the Church of Ireland and the Roman Catholic Church in Ireland have vented their misgivings about a Leave vote.

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Justin Welby, has made his views clear. He has said that he will vote to stay in, partly because he wants the UK to remain a part of Europe and partly because it is the mission of a Christian to build bridges towards peace and reconciliation.

A former Presbyterian Moderator, the Very Rev Dr Norman Hamilton, also made his views clear at the General Assembly last week.

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He said: "It is a profoundly moral question as to whether the decision to stay in the EU or to leave it should be based largely on economics and other issues of self-protection."

He is right that this is more than an economic issue. There is also a moral issue in trying to balance our economic betterment in accordance with the hordes of immigrants who are crowding into the UK from within and from without the EU.

To my mind there is no easy answer to either problem. If we vote to leave there is no guarantee that we can fully control immigration, or that our economic position will be better in the long term.

If we stay there is no guarantee either that we will be better off economically in the long-term, or that we will control immigration any better. In fact it may get worse.

So what is the answer for Church members, and also for those who don't go? This is a discussion which splits families and friends and at the end of the day most people are little the wiser at what the conclusive arguments are.

In my opinion, many people with vote to stay, on the grounds that "it's better to stay with the devil you know, rather than opt for the devil you don't know".

Many people are undoubtedly praying for guidance, on a subject which would require the wisdom of Solomon.

Personally I have a fair idea of which way I will vote, though, as I was saying to friends recently, I will not be sure even then if I have done the right thing.

However, I am certain the Archbishop of Canterbury was correct when he advised people to vote, either way. A decision not to vote, because you are not sure which way to go, is a pure cop-out.

So take courage, and cast your vote on one of the most important political decisions you will take in your lifetime.

Belfast Telegraph


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