29 June 2016, The Tablet
Cardinal Vincent Nichols has condemned an upsurge in racist attacks targeting the Polish community in the wake of Britain’s decision to leave the European Union.
Catholics must stand together with migrants to create and fashion a society that works toward the common good, the Cardinal said in a statement on Tuesday.
His comments came during a week that saw escalating attacks on Polish people – of whom there are some 850,000 in Britain – and other minorities. Early on Sunday morning suspected racist graffiti was left on the entrance of the Polish Social and Cultural Association in Hammersmith, west London; in Cambridgeshire police said they were investigating reports that laminated cards saying “No more Polish vermin” had been posted through letterboxes.
“We all need to reflect on what has been a tumultuous few days and ponder what is needed now,” said Cardinal Nichols.
Citing the incident in Hammersmith and reports of people being confronted by racist banners in Newcastle, he went on: “This upsurge of racism, of hatred toward others is something we must not tolerate. We have to say this is simply not acceptable in a humane society and it should never be provoked or promoted.”
The National Police Chiefs Council said that reports of hate crime had increased by 57 per cent in the days following the referendum, compared with the same period four weeks earlier.
Cardinal Nichols, who indicated ahead of last week’s referendum that he was in favour of the UK remaining in the European Union, said that society needed to grasp again its sense of purpose, which he said was the common good.
In the referendum’s wake, he said: “Our politicians have to deal with their issues, businessmen and banks with their issues, but the fundamental purpose is to build a world in which strength is used for service and no one is excluded”. “The great challenge for those leading the nation now is to speak for everyone,” he went on. “If a victory in a referendum remains a point of division, then we become weaker and weaker as a nation and do not play a part in the international scene tackling the world’s problems, which are great and challenging.”
The Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales has called for people to respect the outcome of the referendum and to act with “mutual respect and civility”. The Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby and the Archbishop of York John Sentamu released a joint statement saying: “It is now the responsibility of the Government, with the support of Parliament, to take full account of the outcome of the referendum, and in the light of this decide on the next steps.”