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'Faith in Politics – Why Vote' Archbishop of York
Quoted on the Times newspaper website. http://www.timesonline.co.uk/.
To read the full Times Newspaper article click here.
"The role of church and religious leaders is one of warning their congregations not to sleep-walk down the street of despair, but to wake up and take responsibility to choose their political leaders. It is up to people to make up their own minds.
That is why I am pleased that Churches Together and the Methodist Church are encouraging local communities to hold their own hustings, to give individuals a chance to ask first hand what those seeking to represent them believe or do not believe. Do not let us make knee jerk decisions based on ignorance, let us make considered decisions based on informed debate.
We should encourage everyone to engage with the democratic process, no matter what their views are or what party they support. Men and women have fought hard to give us the opportunity to vote, many have lost their lives in the fight to deliver universal suffrage for the British people, and it is the least that we can do to engage with electoral process.
It is right that Christians should engage with politics. It is right that they have a say in who represents them in Parliament and creates the laws that govern us. It is easy for people to switch off and say things like 'they are all the same' or pick issues such as MPs' expenses as an excuse not to vote but, really, what does that achieve?
Giving into cynicism gets us nowhere.
We need to believe in hope and positive engagement. Civic responsibility, and service to the people through elected office, are massive responsibilities which no-one should take lightly.
Actually, voting can make a difference. The only difference staying at home makes is that someone else will have their view represented at the ballot box and you won’t. To me that doesn’t make much sense. We saw during the 2009 European elections that staying at home and refusing to vote can allow in those with minority viewpoints. Where I live in Yorkshire the BNP vote reduced by over 6,000 votes and yet, because of low turnout, they were rewarded with a seat in the European Parliament. Does anyone really want to see that feat repeated in Westminster?
Things are never perfect, no matter who you support, but do you think 'Yes, I will stand up and be counted,' or do you stand on the sidelines and sulk while others make the decisions for you?
Everyone will have their own priorities, whether that is a desire to alleviate poverty and hunger; or to ensure that the Millennium Development Goals are delivered; or to eradicate modern day slavery. You may want to think of the need to support our armed services; to oppose racism, or to offer support for families or the elderly. Or you may be guided simply by a broad commitment to justice for individuals at home and abroad. Why not ask your candidates what they think and impress why you think these issues are important?
I do not accept that Britain is 'broken', everywhere I look around I see incredible people doing amazing things. I see ordinary people who care about their communities and their country and want to do something about it. I see people who want change and renewal. I see people who want to make a difference. I see people who want to have their say. I say to these people: 'Engage. Speak. Listen. Vote.'"