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Underlying causes rather than symptoms are the focus at lively church hustings events

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Issued by 'Christians and Candidates 2010'

Press Release

For Immediate Release

30 April 2010

Underlying causes’ rather than ‘symptoms’ are the focus at lively church hustings events

Christians have been urging candidates to focus on ‘causes not symptoms’ and to face up to the most fundamental challenges and choices facing our nation, at meetings with candidates held across the country.

At hustings events chaired by Bishop Michael Nazir Ali in Oldham West & Royton, Worcester, Castle Point, Chelsea & Fulham and Kensington so far this week, the debate has been dominated by discussion of issues relating to the sanctity of life, the place of marriage and family, the freedom to live and speak as committed followers of Jesus Christ and the shape of Christian involvement in political matters. It was a similar story at Monday’s special event in Westminster where senior representatives of the biggest three parties were joined by the leaders of the Christian Peoples Alliance and the Christian Party.

The positive nature of Christian engagement in the political realm

Commenting on his experience this week, Rt Rev’d Dr Michael Nazir-Ali, former Bishop of Rochester, said:

“I have been very encouraged by the quality and engagement at the events so far this week. Candidates have mentioned to me that they have been amazed at both the turn-out and depth of concern displayed at these meetings. The evenings have provided a good first-step for Christians to move beyond the cynicism and sense of impotence that characterises so many people’s perception of the political realm. However, the hustings have underlined to me how important it is for Christians to keep on speaking to their candidates. There is a real danger that the wrong answers are proposed during this election season because the wrong problems are diagnosed.

“Whilst the political establishment may find it easier to keep the focus on the economy, Christians are standing firm in insisting that these issues need to be addressed, flowing from a deep concern to see the nation truly prosper and flourish.

“Of course, Christians see that the economy is an important matter and that people are rightly concerned that they will be able to provide for those for whom they are responsible. However, Christians recognise that economic problems are just part of a much bigger issue. The social fabric of our society has undergone enormous change over recent years and continues to face many challenges. Many want us to ‘look the other way’ whilst the solid foundation on which our society has been built and prospered for hundreds of years is quietly broken up and replaced with shifting sands.

“Christians have a very positive vision for a prosperous and peaceful society. Particularly at this time, we must speak clearly of it and highlight how it provides a robust foundation for a flourishing society in contrast to the volatile, violent and fragmented nation which many current initiatives will deliver.

“A just and compassionate society must make it a priority for protect its most vulnerable members at any stage of human life from the very beginning to the very end. Issues such as abortion on demand and assisted suicide are litmus tests as to what a community treasures and the value that it places on all human life. Biblical teaching gives us a foundation for that, highlighting that human persons are made in the image of God, thus giving a basis for dignity and meaning and for protecting individuals from the danger of having their lives determined purely by wishes of the more powerful in society.

“Moreover, given the Bible’s teaching, it is not surprising that the continual erosion of the place of marriage and family as the fundamental social building block of our society has brought with it an enormous increase in social problems, as study after study has confirmed. Christians need to speak up against such assaults which often come in the form of attempts to redefine marriage and family in ways that contradict traditional, biblical understanding.

“Christians know that ultimately only Jesus Christ can provide a solid and lasting foundation for a flourishing society. Many are deeply concerned at the efforts of a determined minority to remove every reminder of Him from the life of our nation and to marginalise those who seek to follow Him, living and speaking for Him – whether that is in the workplace, in family matters or in the political realm.

“These are some of the issues that Christians want to highlight at this election as we seek to provoke a debate about what kind of nation we want to be, that goes deeper and looks further ahead, than many politicians seem happy to do.

“These themes resonate with many people. To suggest therefore that the economy is the only matter that really counts and to imply, as much current political discussion seems to do, that voters are motivated only by selfish economic gain is naïve. Many people want more fundamental and convincing answers about the foundation and future shape of our society – and the power to deliver it.

“In these times of challenge and confusion, Christians need to speak clearly of Jesus Christ and urge the nation not to walk further down the path of rejecting Him. Many people assume that the living God, who makes Himself known through the Bible, is an obstacle to a society in which individuals and communities flourish, enjoying life, freedom and fullness. Why would they think that? I wonder whether they have ever taken the trouble to investigate Jesus for themselves by reading a gospel. He is not a threat to a prosperous and peaceful society. In fact He is the only one who can deliver it.”

The changing shape of Christian engagement in the political realm

Meanwhile, Andrea Williams, Director of Christian Concern for our Nation (CCFON) and an enthusiastic supporter of the ‘Christians and Candidates 2010’ initiative commented on the frustration that many Christians feel with the mainstream political parties:

“It’s not acceptable for politicians, especially in the main parties, to turn a blind eye or even to try to distract voters from these things. Our laws and policies in these areas speak volumes as to the values we are adopting ourselves and teaching to our children and to the vision of our society which we are pursuing. Increasingly, that vision is one of death, destruction, discord and dehumanisation rather than of freedom, fullness and flourishing life.

“Each of the party leaders has recognised and applauded the enormous contribution which churches and Christian groups make toward the well-being of British society. Many Christians are therefore left bewildered and frustrated by the apparent unwillingness of these same leaders to offer clear and coherent responses to those matters which Christians rightly point to as having the biggest effect on the long-term shape and health of our society. Christians are left wondering ‘is this a case of selective hearing on the part of the main parties?’ Certainly, there is great disappointment at the short-term and superficial outlook which seems to characterise so much of mainstream political discussion at the moment. We need clear and compelling leadership – not just on economic matters but on ethical and moral issues – not acquiescence in the confusion that already exists.

“On the really big issues facing our society, there now seems little to put between the main-stream parties. Distinctive colours seem to have blurred in to a grey blur. Personally, I’m not surprised that many Christians have been encouraged by the increasing prominence of the Christian political parties. Their presence is a welcome addition to the political sphere and if it helps the mainstream parties to respond more clearly to Christian concerns, that will be a good thing. If the main parties remain reluctant to do so, then the growing appeal of the Christian parties, even beyond the core Christian community, may signal a new departure in the shape of Christian involvement in the political realm.”

ENDS.

Notes

Bishop Michael will continue to chair hustings meetings over coming days including a meeting in the City of Durham tomorrow (30APR) that has been organised by 20 year old George Beverly and other concerned Christian students at Durham University.

The National Hustings event, took place at the Emmanuel Centre, Marsham Street, Westminster, London on Monday 26th April (26APR). On the panel were Alistair Burt (Conservative), George Hargreaves (Christian Party), Alan Craig (Christian Peoples Alliance), Lord Roberts (Liberal Democrat) and Stephen Timms (Labour). The evening was chaired by David Shosanya, regional minister for the London Baptist Association and a co-founder of Street Pastors, an urban initiative to help young people who are living on the margins of society.

Further information

Andrew Marsh Christians and Candidates 2010 07540 722 445

Andrea Williams Christian Concern For Our Nation 07712 591 164

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