22 November 2012
Out of the mouths of... children and young people
There are many ways in which in Wales, we like to think that we are leading the way for other nations. One such way is in Wales' commitment to championing the rights of children and young people. In April this year, Wales became the first part of the United Kingdom to embed the United Nations Convention of the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) into law. The Rights of Children and Young Persons (Wales) Measure placed a duty on Welsh Government ministers to consider the rights of children in all the decisions they make about new legislation, policies and changes to existing policy.
Herein lies a tremendous opportunity for evangelical young people to have a voice into the future of the nation. The 'Faith in Wales' report, produced by Gweini in 2008, provided statistical evidence for something that many of us already knew anecdotally - that it is in Wales' evangelical churches where Christian young people are found in greatest abundance. In other words, if any church tradition should seriously consider taking advantage of the opportunities available for young people to have a voice to government, it is the evangelical movement.
In actual fact, it has long been an aspiration of the Alliance in Wales to see Wales' evangelical young people and youth ministries have such a voice, and the embedding of the UNCRC into Welsh law this year only serves to underline how beneficial that would be. The Alliance's advocacy work in Wales aims to promote an evangelicalism that encompasses a concern for Christian issues, social concern and a concern for the common good, and young people would be able to contribute in all these areas.
Take issues of Christian concern, for example. The Alliance fought a successful campaign earlier on this year to protect religious assemblies in Welsh schools while the Welsh Government announced plans in the summer to legislate on home schooling in the upcoming year. These are but two areas of direct relevance to young people. Other areas that the Alliance has worked on in the past twelve months - mental health, anti-trafficking, religious freedom, asylum and homelessness to name but some - would similarly benefit from contributions from evangelical young people.
An initial step that the Alliance is considering in making the aspiration of an evangelical young people's advocacy group a reality is perhaps an unexpected one: it is to press for an acknowledgement within government of the importance of promoting the spirituality and spiritual health of children and young people. In the field of mental health, for example, a Spirituality and Mental Health Special Interest Group was started up three years ago and, endorsed by and linked to Welsh Government, it has proven to be a conduit through which issues of Christian concern can be raised and heard. Such an acknowledgement in the children and young people's sector could have a similar positive effect.