Over the weekend, MPs, party members, charities and lobbyists have been gathering in Birmingham ahead of Conservative Party Conference, which started yesterday. As with the Labour Party Conference, JPIT denominations will be part of a wider faith leader’s delegation, joining Salvation Army and Quaker colleagues as they meet with MPs.
At Labour Party Conference last week, I was struck by the dedication of all of the politicians we met; many of whom shared that they were feeling under a huge amount of pressure and stress, both professionally and personally. A number of them also mentioned the impact that the death of their colleague and friend, Jo Cox MP, had on them earlier on in the year.
This year has been unique politically; there’s been Brexit, a new Prime Minister, and the first murder of a sitting MP in over twenty years – all within the space of six months. MPs and MSPs who were elected during the 2015 General Election have had a year like no other.
A yet it’s often easy to forget that politicians are also just like you and me. They have feelings, and families who don’t see them for long periods at a time. Whilst the life of a politician may seem glamourous from the outside; it consists of a huge amount of travel, meetings and constant ‘prep’ for the next public engagement.
A number of MP’s have reported a marked growth in levels of harassment and abuse online. Labour MP’s Tulip Siddiq and Jess Phillips have both reported “frightening and upsetting” death threats – and reported that the death of their friend made them take the abuse much more seriously than before. SNP MSP Samina-Ahmed Sheikh has also spoken out about the amount of abuse she received. Conservative MP Maria Miller has said that the abuse female MP’s face ‘needs to be challenged now’ and has called for a more honest and open conversation about what is acceptable online.
So how can we, as Christians, support our MP’s, MSPs and those who are called to a life in politics?
The Scottish Churches Parliamentary Office (SCPO) are running a great new programme at the moment called ‘Meet your MSP’, which is designed to build links between congregations and their recently elected MSP’s. If you live in Scotland, I would encourage you to get involved in the project, which enables Churches to develop positive relationships with MSPs early on in their career. If you live in England and Wales, then there is no reason why you can’t use this project as a starting point for getting in touch with your MP – whilst meeting with an MP is an opportunity to highlight an issue we care about, it is also an opportunity to affirm their work as politicians and show that their constituents are thinking about them.
The second tool we have available to us as Christians is prayer. Praying for your elected Member of Parliament, who you may not have voted for, can feel like a counterintuitive thing to do – but it can have a transformational impact on the way you view and relate to them, and may open up new opportunities for conversation and ways in which you can offer support to them in their work.
Here are a few points you could pray about:
- For the politician themselves, for their family and wellbeing.
- For those who work with the politician, in their constituency and parliamentary offices.
- That they will not receive abuse online.
- That they will feel a clear sense of the issues and campaigns they should be working on.
A prayer for Sunday worship:
Our congregation prays for (MPs name) this morning.
We pray for all of the work they do within our constituency, in supporting us as their constituents and helping those within our community who find themselves in most need.
We also pray for those who support them in their parliamentary and constituency offices, and ask that you uphold them in this important work.
We think particularly of the family of (MP’s name), and pray that their family life is not detrimentally impacted by their work, and that they may all find times for rest and togetherness.
We think also of the enormous challenges (MP’s name) faces at this time, and pray that you will watch over them as they discern which issues to prioritize and highlight within Parliament.
Lastly, we pray for the upcoming political year, that it may be an opportunity for many of the social injustices and inequalities we care about to be addressed and challenged by our politicians.
Creator God, your love transcends political labels and party political divides. At this time of political uncertainty, help us all to show compassion and care to those who hold opinions which differ from our own.
In God’s name.