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25 February 2013

Still flagging

Still flagging

The Evangelical Alliance NI (EANI) has called on political, civil and religious leaders to work together for the peace and prosperity of all society, following events surrounding Belfast City Council’s decision to only fly the Union flag from City Hall on designated days.

Specifically, EANI has called on political leaders to design and adopt a ‘Good Relations Commitment’, modelling a way of speaking well to, and of, one another. This would be a short document setting out practical steps politicians could sign up to, for example, to presume the best intention of each other rather than the worst or to address an issue in private before a public confrontation. Political discourse in recent months has at times been distinctly infantile. If politicians want to see good relationships on the streets they need to model it ‘on the Hill’. 

This is not a naïve call to niceness but a radical and costly call to right relationship. The violence and sectarianism which followed Belfast City Council’s decision on flags was condemned by all political leaders but often with caveats which continued to lay the blame at someone else’s door. We have heard too many voices which split our community in two and place the cause of one side above the other. Elected representatives clearly have a role in representing their constituents’ views but too often this reduces important issues to ’them and us’ politics. 

EANI has been developing policies to strengthen faith, family, community and work. These are issues in which we find our identity and purpose. It’s no coincidence that in some of the areas worst affected by the riots these are in short supply. Northern Ireland needs long term vision from government, civic society and Church which centers identity in these things over and above constitutional symbols. 

The Bible is clear that peace and prosperity are intimately linked. In recent months we have seen the cost to the Northern Ireland’s economy when peace is pushed aside. Post-conflict, the landscape is changing rapidly and the political narrative needs to change too. We need to agree the common ground of seeking the wellbeing of all, whatever flag eventually flies above us. We dare our leaders to take this opportunity to see the bigger picture and take brave decisions for the peace and prosperity of all in our society. 

A relationships revolution 

We recently spent some time reflecting on a few of the media enquiries we had received in the past year – Coalition for Marriage, anti-trafficking campaign, abortion, same-sex adoption issues and sexual health to name a few. Two things soon became clear. First, relationships are central to all of these areas. Second, public discourse around these issues is often sexualised, piecemeal and reactive. 

As Christians we feel challenged about how to respond to what are difficult and personal issues affecting people’s day-today lives and wellbeing. We are also aware that as the body of Christ we have not always displayed both grace and truth. Jesus exemplified both. We need a relationships revolution.

Relationships are the cornerstone upon which the Christian faith is built. We are made in the image of a relational God, who through the trinity models the perfection found in right relationship. As an organisation seeking to present Christ credibly as good news for spiritual and social transformation we’re committed to advocating for the importance of relationship across society. This applies to all areas of life both inside and outside of the Church. As part of our response we are producing a series of fold-outs: a collection of around six leaflets packed with challenging questions, statistics and
biblical values on relationships, marriage, pornography, casual sex, prostitution and trafficking, and community relations. Look out for them in the months ahead.

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