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17 March 2016

Join us in preparing for the Northern Ireland Assembly elections 2016

Join us in preparing for the Northern Ireland Assembly elections 2016

Ahead of the Northern Ireland Assembly elections on 5th May 2016 there are two ways that the Evangelical Alliance Northern Ireland are seeking to engage with our members, would-be MLAs and wider society.

The first is a series of hustings events jointly held with CARE. This follows six successful Westminster hustings last year which attracted around seven hundred people. A hustings is an opportunity for the public to hear candidates debate and ask questions. We have initial plans in place for events in Church halls in North Down, South Belfast, Lagan Valley, East Antrim and Derry/Londonderry. We are also aware of a few other Church-run hustings which we intend to publicise. Please keep an eye on our website for details of these events which are open to the public and likely to take place in the last few weeks of April.

The second way we are trying to engage people with the election is through our conversation-starter document People and Place. This is a 'manifesto' of sorts exploring some of the foundational values and priorities we would propose shape the next programme for Government. It asks two key questions; what kind of people are we becoming? And what kind of place are we creating?

The context is that we are always becoming something, a kind of people and a kind of place. Very often however this can happen without much thought or debate about which values and priorities really matter to us. It can be easy to drift into a culture, a way of living, becoming a people and place that we would rather not be. Even in the world of public policy, specific proposals can be often be short-term and driven by electoral cycles and party politics rather than mutual core values or principles like compassion or equity.

Our 'manifesto' is not about demands for special protections or forcing religious beliefs on everyone else – acts of which Christians are sometimes accused. In fact we begin by pointing out that everyone has a lens through which they see the world and a story or narrative by which they understand it. However we do not shy away from our Christian beliefs.

We go on to explore some foundational values like shalom, freedom and justice, human dignity, relationships and good governance. We propose, not impose, that these are values which can be shared by many people of all faiths and none. Again we do not shy away from the fact that we are driven by the biblical understanding of these values as being key to a flourishing society.

We go on to challenge the culture around us, political leaders and the Church alike about some key priorities. These include the protection of human life, reconciliation, wellbeing, creation-care and consumerism. We propose a few specific policies but are more concerned about the long term policy direction of travel in these important areas. Because of the gospel of Jesus Christ, we see a vital role for the Church in teaching and modelling out radically different priorities when it comes to issues of identity and relationship. Our hope is that this document can help to create a starting point for discussion and debate for Christians and non-Christians alike.

People and Place and details of our hustings events with CARE will be available on our website in the coming weeks. Our hope and prayer is that you engage with us when considering how to cast your vote and how to participate in the public square wisely and winsomely in the days and weeks ahead.

  Photo used under CC license- credit Marc Thiele