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21 April 2011

Faith in the run-up to 5 May

Faith in the run-up to 5 May

Christians often want to know how many Christian politicians there are in our political institutions in the UK, and the people of Wales are no different. With the elections for the Welsh Assembly coming up on 5 May, that same question will be in the minds of many people. There is, of course, a debate to be had as to whether we place too much importance on someone having a Christian faith compared with, say, having a strong moral compass but not being a professing Christian. Nevertheless, having Christians representing us in the corridors of power is still important and the numbers of open Christians in our Assemblies and Parliaments are likely to be a barometer of how effectively we will able to lobby.

Matters of faith have not played a great part in the run-up to the May elections. There are a number of Christians standing as candidates for the four main parties - some seeking to be re-elected while others seeking to get elected for the first time. Some stand a very good chance while others do not. The Welsh Christian Party has fielded candidates in all of the five regions and there is a stronger possibility in this Assembly election than in previous ones that the minor parties will achieve electoral success. This is partly owing to a greater awareness among both the minor parties and the electorate of how to use the second vote. Among the many Assembly Members that are stepping down, many after 12 years in office, is Janet Ryder, a committed Christian and AM for Plaid Cymru who regularly stood up for her faith and beliefs. She will be sorely missed.

Matters of faith have not been prominent in the manifestos of the four main parties.

Relating to faith in the wider sense, however, was disturbing news recently of a BNP candidate being videoed burning a copy of the Qur'an in the Swansea area. The Muslim Council of Wales issued a press release condemning the action and asking other faith groups to consider doing the same.

For the Alliance in Wales, the issue is one of upholding values of religious liberty and tolerance towards faith communities. These values are, in part, shaped by the experience of our brothers and sisters in other parts of the world who are currently experiencing persecution, and thinking how they would like to be treated. As such we will work towards a Wales where religious diversity is respected and where members of faith communities can live their lives without fear of intimidation.

Apart from Christian candidates who are known to us, the 5 May election will no doubt throw up a few surprises regarding successful candidates who are either Christian or sympathetic to the Christian faith.