24 January 2013
Seeking the prosperity of Wales
A recent report issued by Cardiff University showed that Swansea City Football Club's first season in the Premier League (2011-12) generated £58m for the Welsh economy, in which 400 jobs – including 340 in Swansea – were either created or protected.
With Cardiff City Football Club currently ten points clear at the top of the Championship, the Welsh economy looks set for a further boost if, as looks likely, the club achieves promotion in May to the Promised Land of the Premier League.
The state of the Welsh economy and job creation are uppermost in the minds of public, private and third sector organisations at the moment, with rarely a day going by when there is not a related story in the Welsh news. Two such examples from Welsh Government are:
The electrification of Welsh train lines which will cut, for example, 20 minutes off the 3-hour journey from London to Swansea;
The development of a high-speed broadband network in Wales.
In his response to David Cameron's speech on a referendum on Britain's EU membership, First Minister Carwyn Jones highlighted concerns over inward investment, jobs and the Welsh economy as reasons for how vital it was that Wales, as part of the UK, remained within the EU.
Unemployment in Wales fell slightly by 1,000 between September and November last year but no one is kidding themselves that all is well regarding Wales' future. Indeed, in the recent Gweini conference on the church's response to the economic crisis, speakers painted a picture of challenging times in the years ahead, but one in which the church was called to respond.
Gweini's 2008 report Faith in Wales put a monetary figure on the contribution of Wales' faith communities to civil society. The amount, £102m (of which 98 per cent was Christian), would be even greater 5 years later as the survey was taken before the recent growth in Christian compassion ministries, such as foodbanks, night shelters, Street Pastors and debt advice centres.
Nevertheless, as far as sustainable job creation and boosting the economy, the evangelical church is in a different place than in the days of the movement in the 19th century, when social reformers such as Shaftesbury and others were changing the lives of thousands.
Although evangelical influence upon the economy seems less than it was, there is every indication that evangelicals still have a role to play. The current Manifesto project that EA is undertaking with Gweini, for example, includes 'employment' and 'regeneration and social enterprise' as two of the 32 topics, showing that there is a definite appetite among Christians to engage in such issues. There is also probably more going on that is driven by Christian faith than we are aware of, and so only God knows the full picture.
Jeremiah exhorted the Jewish people to seek the peace and prosperity of the city they were taken to in exile and Christians in Wales are currently doing the same thing, but for the nation of Wales.