Two years and counting

The 9th of January in Northern Ireland marked two years since the collapse of the Executive.

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The past two years have been eventful, and frustrating, to say the least.

We are facing an uncertain Brexit which will have huge implications upon our land due to the question of the backstop in the Irish border. Political talks have so far proved futile and the public were far from encouraged by MLA pay fiasco. Meanwhile, hospital waiting lists grow and school funding is being cut. Many people believe Northern Ireland is experiencing a mental health crisis. Too many children are living in poverty, with numbers expected to rise as benefit changes begin to take effect right across Northern Ireland. Despite the great work of high profile media campaigns, paramilitary attacks, sectarianism and hate crime continues.

However, in the two years since the political drama on the hill, we have also seen many positive events, good news stories and messages of hope. Many people positively and creatively marked 500 years since the Reformation, which revolutionised many aspects of our daily lives. On the whole our society maturely reflected on the 20 year anniversary of the signing of the Good Friday Agreement. The Church continues in the daily work of sharing the good news, love and life of Jesus Christ. Young people from all backgrounds continue to be engaged with community youth groups. Christian charities have fed people, helped them be released from poverty, debt, addiction and despair. People from other nations have found homes in our communities. People’s lives have been eternally impacted with the good news of the gospel.

Amidst all the chaos, Christ remains our constant. So how we as Christians model a ‘non-anxious presence(1)’ in this moment matters. How we respond to this political impasse is crucial as many cultural foundations appear to crumble. We encourage the Church to continue faithfully sharing the words and actions of the gospel with those around us. This ordinary faithful presence is an increasingly radical concept in an age of shifting sands and allegiances. As Christians, we are called to be salt and light in our communities, irrespective of the season which we, and indeed our government, are in. Indeed we seek to ask the Holy Spirit to move in our political institutions, and the lives of our elected representatives. We continue to ask God to do ‘exceedingly and abundantly above all that we can ask or imagine’ committing in prayer for a political, cultural and spiritual shift towards the heart of God.

What can any of us do about this right now, this week? Let us suggest just two practical things….

  1. Pray – Right now as you read this take a moment to stop and pray for our political leaders. Pray for our Church and community leaders too. Pray for bold integrity, kind hearts and creative minds.

  2. Write a physical hand-written letter to your local MLA(s) - Tell them your hopes, aspirations and goals for Northern Ireland. Encourage them; to continue to advocate on your behalf, and also to meet and talk with politicians throughout the government. Assure them of your prayers and offer to meet with them to talk in person. Build a relationship and trust God to be present. This week, one man demonstrated his commitment in conveying his message to our politicians by walking 90 miles from Enniskillen to Stormont. Go on, write a letter and walk to the post-box!

(1) Mark Sayers