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Black Church seeks to have more say in politics

18 July 2014

by a staff reporter


Prominent voice: Pastor  Nims Obunge speaks outside New Scotland Yard after meeting senior Metropolitan Police officers, following the inquest in January into the shooting of Mark Duggan, whose death in Tottenham sparked riots across London and elsewhere in England, in 2011 

Prominent voice: Pastor  Nims Obunge speaks outside New Scotland Yard after meeting senior Metropolitan Police officers, follow...

THE first Black Church political manifesto to be drawn up in the UK has urged black and ethnic-minority Christians to engage in social and political action.

To be published in advance of next year's General Election, it says that the large number of Christians in black communities means that the "Black Majority Church in Britain is set to have a significant say in who wins this next election".

Black Churches have grown rapidly in recent years - in London alone, 48 per cent of churchgoers in 2012 were Black Christians, up four per cent in seven years, a higher increase than in any other ethnic group.

The manifesto says that political engagement is not optional, but in-tegral to Christian faith: "We see it as a mandatory part of our Christian faith as responsible citizens in accordance with biblical teaching."

Some commentators have described Black Churches as a "sleeping giant" in the UK. The manifesto dismisses that, however, arguing that Black Churches have been intimately involved in building communities, and that now church leaders want "legislative safeguards. . . that allow us to adhere to Christian values so that we can serve our communities with integrity and in obedience to God".

The document, which has gone out to consultation before its official publication, has been put together by church leaders from the National Church Leaders Forum, which represents the African, Caribbean, and Asian Christian communities.

In the foreword, Pastor Matthew Ashimolowo, senior pastor at Kingsway International Christian Centre, and Bishop Eric Brown of the New Testament Church of God, said: "Our manifesto, 'Black Church Political Mobilisation: A Manifesto for Action', is the first of its kind for the Black Church in Britain. Whilst we can't promise tax cuts or an expansion in welfare provision, neither can we promise new fiscal policies to stimulate growth in the medium to long term.

"What we hope to do is to signal our maturing presence and renewed commitment to mobilise African and Caribbean Churches and the wider black community for social and political action. By encouraging our Churches to actively engage in the socio-cultural, political, and economic institutions locally and nationally, we hope to strengthen communities, promote active citizenship, and the common good."

At the heart of the manifesto's recommendations is a call for Black Churches to work more closely with the police to improve the service's historically poor relationship with black communities. Churches should encourage members of their congregations to join the police service and set up uniformed youth services such as the Boys' and Girls' Brigade, the manifesto recommends.

It condemns the disproportion-ately high number of people from black and ethnic minority communities in prison as a "scandal": on average, there are five times more black prisoners than white in UK prisons. It also calls for a "national dialogue on this disproportionate representation of black people in prison". Churches are also urged to get involved with resettlement programmes for released offenders.

The manifesto urges Black Churches to support single parents, but to continue to promote the importance of marriage in an era of declining marriage and increasing divorce rates. The Church should also work with fostering and adoption agencies to support foster parents and children, it says.

It also highlights the still poor academic record of black children in the education system: by the age of 22 to 24, 44 per cent of black young people are not in education, employment, or training, it says.

Gang culture is an increasing problem in communities, but one where the Black Churches are well placed to help, through outreach programmes targeting vulnerable youths, the manifesto says. It urges members of the Black community to become involved as school governors and teachers.

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