• engaGE19

Make the Cross Count

For many of us in Northern Ireland looking at the upcoming General Election, there is a real sense of apathy. This society feels like it is stuck in a political deadlock. For almost three years now we have been without a functioning Northern Ireland Executive. Key decisions across a wide variety of areas such as education, health and welfare have been unable to be taken in the absence of an Executive.

On top of that, Westminster has selectively intervened on particular issues while not doing so on others. So on the issue of abortion, an issue of life and death which matters to a lot of people in Northern Ireland, Westminster acted to override the devolution settlement and impose widespread access to abortion for any reason up to the point at which a baby is capable of being born alive. They did this without any consultation whatsoever with those of us who actually live in Northern Ireland. Westminster only debated the final version of the legislation, which is now the law here, for 17 minutes and we have been left with poorly thought through and badly drafted legislation.

For many living here, the way in which Westminster acted in this area left a bitter taste. The people who live in this society were ignored and treated in a way which simply would never have been countenanced in other parts of these islands. Other issues of major importance were simply ignored by Westminster MPs.

In light of these issues, it is no surprise many feel like throwing their hands up in despair and opting out. However, in my view this is not an option Christians should take. For those of us whose lives are shaped by the life, death and resurrection of Jesus political engagement is an imperative.

Well-known Christian Pastor Tim Keller explains why perfectly in his book the Prodigal Prophet: “we must not think it really possible to transcend politics and simply preach the gospel. Those Christians who try to avoid all political discussions and engagement are essentially casting a vote for the social status quo. Since no human society reflects God’s justice and righteousness perfectly, supposedly apolitical Christians are supporting many things that displease God. So to not be political is to be political."

As Christians if we truly believe we are called to love our neighbours as ourselves, it is hard to see how you can do that while ignoring who governs us. The decisions the Government at Westminster will take during the next Parliament, however long it lasts, will have enormous consequences for those of us who live here. Decisions over funding for healthcare, laws on issues of life and death, welfare policy, international aid and yes Brexit (to cite just a few examples) will be made by those elected on December 12. In so many ways our lives are shaped by decisions made at Westminster. For those of us in Northern Ireland, Westminster matters more than it usually would due to the absence of the Executive. The most minimal way to politically engage is to vote.

On December 12 make the cross count.

Mark Baillie

CARE NI Public Policy Officer