What we've been reading this weekNick Spencer on the electionContacting election candidatesHow to Show Up Snap Election - How to respond?Thoughts from a Broom CupboardDifficulties getting to the Polling Station?Can’t be bothered to vote? Some reasons why you should….Politics is in need of incarnation, not just demonstration10 Reasons Christians Should Vote in the ElectionsThe election as an opportunityPolitics is dead...When praying for your leaders feels tough...'THOSE WHO SHOW UP' - Every church leader should read this book! If you care about your neighbour, you care about politicsDoes politics really matter?Why the Catholic Church calls us to be "active citizens"Serving God On the Inside and On the OutsideWho would Jesus vote for?5 reasons Christians don't get involved in politicsShifting views on politics from an Ethiopian immigrantOne student's u-turn on politicsTime to get engaged!A call for students to have a go!

Shifting views on politics from an Ethiopian immigrant

Giram Bishaw is an Ethiopian immigrant who has made the UK his home and is now one of the pastors of a church in London. Part of the process of his resettling has been coming to grips with what his citizenship and engagement with politics looks like. Here he shares his thoughts.

I heard people say that when you first join the church you read ‘the churches bible’, it is later that you start questioning and try to sift your experiences and understandings directly from the scripture. Due to the persecutions of Christians and the atheistic political ideologies at the time of my conversion in Ethiopia, the dominant views of politics by the church was understandably very negative. For a Christian to engage in politics was unthinkable. It is with this frame of mind that I come to the UK. As I wrestle to find God’s purpose (beyond my own) for my migration to the UK and reflect on my responsibility as a minister to the wider community, I began to see that social and political engagement is part and parcel of Christian duty. It is then that I started questioning the views I had of politics.

The word ‘politics’ is a word which had this kind of predicament. The negative behaviours of politicians undoubtedly affected the way we view and understand the word ‘politics.’ Particularly for those of us who come from less developed countries, where we have seen and experienced corruption, dishonesty and abuse of power in the political arena to a greater measure, the word ‘politics’ could have a meaning equivalent to the word ‘evil’ and politicians as instruments to that end. This view of politics unless reviewed, would result in an unintended consequences for us Christians. 

For one, it will drive us away from social engagement and political involvement, abdicating our vital role of legislation to those whose worldview we fundamentally disagree with as Christians. Furthermore, our disengagement from social and political matters goes contrary to our prayers and desire to see the Kingdom of God coming and His will being done on earth as it is in heaven. Expecting change by retreating from the political arena and praying only from a distance encumbers us from living the authentic Christian life as the salt and light of the world.

Upon reflection,  we realise that it is not only the word ‘politics’ is  a friendly word, void of the harms we envisage (when it is in the hands of right people) but it is also is  a word that applies to a wide range in our daily interactions. Politics is exercised on a wide range of social levels, from clans and tribes of traditional societies, through modern local governments, schools, churches, companies and institutions up to sovereign states, to the international level.

Therefore, we can say that politics is the way and the mechanism that people living in groups make decisions. It is also the realm in which we attempt to realise some of our highest aspirations: our desire for freedom, our longing for justice, our hope for peace and security. These gives us a legitimate ground to embrace politics, to get involved and participate as a people who are waiting with great anticipation the manifestation of a Kingdom which fulfils those human aspirations.

In the prayer of Jesus concerning the safety of his disciples, we notice that His prayer was not to take them away from the world but to protect them in the world. Whilst they are interacting with the world, speaking against injustice, appreciating and upholding the truth, helping and standing with the poor and endeavouring to be true citizens of heaven by being true citizens of the earth, that is where they need God’s protection. We need to be engaged in understanding the manifesto of the different parties, being the voice for the voiceless and making our votes count. We owe it to our children to fight, to give them a world which upholds the principles that make it possible for them to live a life worthy of our God. The bible is not pessimistic about the future. Rather, it’s realistic.  So should we be! For a Christian, therefore, being indifferent of what is happening in the political arena is not an option.