Cardinal Nichols, as this magazine reports, has said some very sensible things about racism and xenophobia in the light of the recent referendum, as well as the necessity of listening to the voiceless. His words should be pondered.
With regard to anti-Polish feeling, all British people, and this particularly applies to Catholics, need to remember that Poland is the land of Copernicus, of Jan Sobieski, of Marie Curie, of Chopin, of Saint John Paul II, and of Lech Walesa. That is a pretty good line up, and is by no means exhaustive. It has produced scientists, saints, musicians, soldiers and at least three people who can be called saviours of Europe from tyranny.
Moreover, Poland is the land for which Britain went to war in 1939; in the same war, numerous Polish servicemen fought with the British, making great contributions, for example, at Monte Cassino and in the Battle of Britain. To dislike Poles in any way is to be not just profoundly ignorant, it is also to be utterly un-British.
If we start with the Poles, let us not forget others too, countries for which Britain should have, and does have, a profound admiration. Lithuania, who stood up to Soviet tyranny single-handed, and precipitated the downfall of the Soviet Union, while all around them counselled not heroism but restraint. Hungary, that suffered so much from Stalin’s tanks, but which eventually won back its independence without outside help. Bulgaria, on whose behalf William Gladstone emerged from retirement, championing the country’s independence from the Ottoman Empire, fighting an election on that issue, among others.
On a more personal note, all of us know people from Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, Romania, Hungary, Bulgaria and other European countries, and we happen to like them a great deal. How right Cardinal Nichols is to make clear that stirring up xenophobia is utterly out of keeping with the sort of people we are.
At the same time the Cardinal clearly makes reference to some of the recent outpourings from the broadcast media and the internet which emphasise or create division in our country.
“If a victory in a referendum remains a point of division, then we become weaker and weaker as a nation and not play a part in the international scene tackling the world’s problems, which are great and challenging,” Cardinal Nichols said.
Now is not the time for recriminations, or pointed attacks on certain classes of people who may have voted one way or the other, or to stigmatise one side as “ignorant”, or to demonise the working class or any other class. It is good to see the Cardinal reminding us “there is no need for fear”. Project Fear now surely needs to stop. It needs to be replaced by Project Unity and Project Hope.
Come on, Britain, you can do it!