Archbishops’ General Election appeal to ‘honour the truth’

By Gavin Cordon, PA Whitehall Editor

The Archbishops of Canterbury and York have issued an appeal to voters and politicians to “honour the gift of truth” during the General Election campaign.

The Most Rev Justin Welby and Dr John Sentamu said everyone had a duty to “speak accurately and challenge falsehoods” when engaging in political debate.

In a joint pastoral letter to the Church of England, they urged people to discuss issues “with humility and in love” while acknowledging those who hold different views “are not our enemies”.

The archbishops also drew on the example of Jesus to call for people to put “the vulnerable and those of the edges of society” while calling on all parties to commit to tacking climate change.

At the same time, they called on the parties to make it an “absolute priority” to offer to reassurance to those groups, including in Jewish and Muslim communities, who felt threatened and were in “much anxiety” at the current time.

In the letter, which they hope will be shared in local churches during the campaign, the archbishops stressed the need for issues to be debated “respectfully” and without resorting to personal abuse.

“As followers of Jesus Christ each of us is called to honour the gift of truth, both to speak it and to seek it,” they said.

“We all have a responsibility to speak accurately, to challenge falsehoods when we hear them, and to be careful to separate facts from opinion.

“Offering facts and opinions should be done with humility and in love.  People who hold different political views are not our enemies.

“Two people can look at the same facts and in good faith interpret them very differently.”

In particular, they emphasised the importance of engaging “responsibly” on social media.

“If we leave our echo-chambers and make a conscious effort to listen to people and ideas we disagree with it will help us understand where others are coming from in this election period, even though we may disagree vehemently,” they said.

The archbishops expressed the hope that the debates which took place would “unite rather than divide”, rebuilding trust in politics and institutions.

“As Jesus did, through his birth in poverty, his actions and words and his warning of judgment for those who seek only their own well-being, we must put the vulnerable and those on the edges of society first,” they said.

The added: “That includes justice for the oppressed, protection for the persecuted, and a commitment to combat climate change and adapt to its effects.

“It also includes a just economic system, open and encouraging to aspiration and ambition, supportive of those who struggle.”