The Compassion Manifesto

martin luther kingWith the events leading up to the snap election, here in the UK, we need to have in mind, the core values of Christianity in order to make a wise decision regarding the election . I call this the ‘Compassion Manifesto’. Although, sadly, many churches and denominations have decided not to emphasise the importance of voting, some completely ignoring the issues and others sweeping it all under the carpet! I believe, it is necessary for the church to ‘speak out’ its concerns and challenge their congregation to revisit their values. As a leader, however, can you truly endorse one party over the other ? This isn’t about the liking of a personality but a manifesto that reflects kingdom values. A manifesto that projects a hope and a future for generations to come. Ultimately, there is no perfect manifesto, but there are the values of the Beatitudes (Matt 5:1-12) that are central to Christ’s teaching.

Defending the poor and welcoming strangers. Christ had a heart and compassion throughout his 3-year ministry for those who were vulnerable in society. We see that Jesus told us to look after each other in our needs (James 2:16, Gal 6 :10) and particularly, we see this in the unity of believers (Acts 2:42), where everyone shared resources, all were of equal value and they gave away possessions to anyone who was in need. This equality meant that everyone could fully participate in bringing non-believers to Christ and a real sense of community was established too . God reminds us too, that we were once aliens in a foreign land and had to settle into unknown territory (Deut 10:19). Does a manifesto speak of welcoming and accepting strangers into our country ? Will refugees get treated with respect, humility and dignity as any other human being? We are living in a culture of fear and scapegoating, does a policy that shows little empathy and compassion on refugees, truly reflect a Christ like society?

Blessed are those who are meek (5)– a leader who displays some humility and no arrogance in his or her speech. An understanding that their position only came into being through the power of the people, they are serving. Remember they are serving and representing your decisions and concerns.

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness (6) – does the manifesto protect those who are the most vulnerable in our society (poor, disabled, elderly, refugees)? or are those who are rich propped up by the backs of the poor ? We can all remember George Osborne’s proposals to cut £4.4bn disability allowances, that sparked the resignation of the works and pension secretary. However, the corporation taxes from April 1 , this year, falls to 19%. This figure is important, because it means that other services such as education, council tax and the NHS are affected. The rise in privatised national services means, more shareholders will line their pockets with increased assets and wealth and the public will suffer at the hands of the greedy. Is it right that the taxpayer has to prop up the rich, while others are being pushed further into debt?

Blessed are those who are pure in heart (8) – Someone who demonstrates careful thought and consideration to people he is serving. Is someone making decisions to benefit him or herself? Is the policy truly representative of all people , rather than a certain type of person ? If society is keeping rent high and pricing people out of the housing market, this cycle of greed and oppression is stopping the working family from ever owning their own home. Again, the rich stay richer and the middle and working class get poorer . We have seen, food banks have risen dramatically over the past five years, and 26.45 % of people who are using them are actually working (https://www.trusselltrust.org/news-and-blog/latest-stats/end-year-stats/).

Blessed are the peacemakers (9) – bringing reconciliation between two conflicting parties or people. Peace making is not passive but an active step to bring about change to situations. Part of this process involves rebuilding relationships that have broken down over the years. A leader that can negotiate kindly and be prudent in their speech. Vital decisions are being made about the rise in terrorism and war. Does the leader act aggressively and revengefully? or in a controlled and calm manner ? Perhaps, our government needs to familiarise themselves with the Just War Theory.

I believe, as responsible citizens who want to make change for the better, it is necessary to enter into a dialogue about faith and politics. Faith and politics go ‘hand in hand’. What you believe in, affects all the decisions you make, and reflects the values that you hold. If we stay silent in this election, we are not really fighting or speaking out for those who are struggling and suffering. If we hope for a better kingdom or future, then the action starts now! Over the weekend, my family decided to fight for education funding not to be cut. In Bristol alone, over 6,000 people marched in peaceful solidarity, to demonstrate that they care about teachers jobs being cut, headmasters having to make difficult decisions over keeping good quality teachers and of course, the children whose lives will be affected by the decisions made at the top. There is strength in numbers and people will listen when we unite under one banner.

We need a party that stands up for the poor, speaks for bringing about justice, shows deep care for the environment , seeks to create equality for all and does not swindle the poor in daylight robbery. I was reminded of the importance of voting whilst watching the film ‘ Selma’. Martin Luther King stood up for black people in the 1960’s, who were still neglected the right to vote, even though they had every right to do so. This leader, did not stay silent on the issues of injustice, but fought with integrity, perseverance and peaceful protest for every US citizen that was declined the right to free speech and democracy. The story of the Edmund Pettus bridge march in 1965 from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama was momentous in bringing together one voice of influence, that initiated change for thousands of black citizens in the South. At that time, only 300 out of 15,000 were able to register to vote. The first attempt to cross the bridge in peaceful protest, ended in bloody violence and the death of Jimmie Lee Jackson by an Alabama state trooper. The brutal attacks of the vulnerable, young and old in an unprovoked attack. The second march of 8,000 people, black and white, lasted five days, was surprisingly protected by armed guards, ordered by US President Lynden B. Johnson . Voting Rights were finally granted to Black US citizens after much perseverance and more importantly, the peoples’ voices were heard and valued. Rev Frederick Reese, who was a participant at the time, emphasised the importance ‘to participate and determine the destiny of our lives’. We can chose to act and stand up to do the right thing.

I find this story to be of a great encouragement today and acts as a reminder to how hard people have fought across generations to gain their rights to vote. Think of the Suffragette Movement that finally got the women the vote in 1928 for over 21’s. These sacrifices were made for you and me, so that today, we could have the freedom and right to make the right decision and fight for the future of our country. When you vote in this election, I urge you to seek God’s wisdom to bring clarity to your decision making, and emerge yourself in prayer . Your vote absolutely counts; it does matter and will affect generations to come.

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