Seeking the Welfare of London
Seeking the Welfare of London
London is the city I never wanted to live in. As a student in Manchester, I wanted to rebel against the trend of post-university migration to the Capital. I didn’t want to be a part of the city that holds a kind of privileged position above any other in the UK. I didn’t want to fall victim to the crippling cost of living. But, alas, two months after my graduation I found myself setting up life in London. In my eyes, I had sold out.
Two and a half years on and here’s my reflection: it’s a strange, wonderful and broken city that, no matter how privileged it seems, cries out for radical transformation.
It’s strange that millionaires’ mansions stand next door to decaying tower blocks; that you can travel for hours and still be in London; and that you can be pushed up so close to someone on the tube without either of you saying a word. It’s wonderful that there are so many innovative projects set up to bring social change; that people from all across the world live here; and that there are people who ride scooters to work!
Yet, in all of this, there is brokenness. Our streets are filled with rough sleepers, our air is polluted, inequality is sky high and public services are stretched. In the last few weeks and months we have seen division, fear and uncertainty as populism rises and a question mark hangs over the future of our city outside the EU. Now, more than ever, it seems right for the church to be seeking the welfare of London.
As much as we are united by our core Christian beliefs and our desire to see God’s kingdom come, we all have different ideas on what kind of society we want to build and how we should be building it.
My views and hopes for our country, that are rooted in my Christian faith, led me to join the Liberal Democrats. Unashamedly, then, the thoughts I offer to you on seeking the welfare of London have a political liberalism flavour to them.
To explain what seeking the welfare of London means in my view, I’m going to start with what the end-point of my seeking is – what do I see the welfare we are seeking for London to look like? Three words explain my view: freedom, equality and community.
Freedom for the people in this city, for current and future generations. Freedom from poverty, freedom to develop talents to the full and freedom for everyone to be themselves.
This manifests in housing for everyone, decent education available for children and adults, a sustainable environment and good quality health and social care where mental health is not ignored or stigmatised.
As Christians, our concept of freedom comes first and foremost from the freedom we find in Jesus. The bible talks about freedom from sin, freedom from fear and freedom from oppression so that people can live life to its fullest. The freedom at the core of liberal political ideology overlaps with our biblical concept of freedom – it seeks to remove all the worldly barriers that prevent people developing their talents to the full and grasping the opportunities that lie before them.
The welfare of London is its people set free to achieve what they want to achieve and be who they want to be.
Equality for everyone in London. Equality of rights and opportunities. This means rejecting prejudice and discrimination and opposing entrenched privilege and inequality.
We read in scripture that all humans – men and women – are made in the image of God (Genesis 1:27). We are all created with equal value which demands us to build communities that treat their people equally – rich, poor, men, women, young, old, British or not. As with freedom, there is a close relationship between this equality and the equality that liberal political thought is built on.
The welfare of London is equality that treats all human beings equally, regardless of their race, religion, age, gender, sexuality or anything else. Equality that makes everyone feel welcome.
Community where everyone has a voice, where people feel they belong, where people are empowered and where people can work together for the common good.
In practice, this looks like political systems where every person’s view counts and is heard. It also looks like community activities which bring people together and help instil a sense of belonging.
Community is considered an integral part of our Christian life. In Hebrews we read about the need to spur each other on in our Christian journeys (Hebrews 10:24-25). In Romans we learn about the Body of Christ and how together, in community, we form one body (Romans 12:4-5). As the Christian community we read about is based on equality, so too is the community that liberalism holds at its core.
The welfare of London is community. Community where everyone feels they belong, where everyone is equally valued and listened to and where everyone works together for social change.
Neither freedom, nor equality or community can be fully embraced without structural and systemic change. Seeking ‘welfare’ – whatever you think it looks like – is not only about sticking a plaster over wounds, it’s about long term transformation for our entire city. Together, church, as we seek the welfare of London we should look not only to social action but to engaging with and influencing the political systems that lie behind the brokenness.
The journey there
Political systems are daunting. Engaging in them seems like a slog. To get stuck in and not lose heart, the end goal should remain in sight, not blocked out by the processes and lengthy debates. With the end goal outlined above in mind, here are some principles to guide any attempt to seek it through political change.
London is defined by its multi-culturalism and its diversity. In the past few weeks and months we have seen communities divided, hate crimes increase and racist abuse soar. What should be central to any attempt to seek the welfare of our city is unity. People need to be brought together to put an end to the fear and division that’s permeating our country.
Care for the marginalised
With division has come marginalisation. People all across London – citizens of other European countries, refugees, people of other faiths and backgrounds – are feeling marginalised and vulnerable. As Jesus stood up for the marginalised and the vulnerable, seeking the welfare of London should intentionally and proactively defend and protect those feeling cut off from society.
To place people are at the heart mission to seek the welfare of London, listening is a must. Listening to those who think the same as you and those that don’t; listening even when it’s an inconvenience to do so; listening and digesting what you hear to move you to act for positive change.
For London as a whole, I believe its welfare is best sought working in partnership and collaboration with our friends and neighbours overseas. Trading with them, having the opportunity to travel between them, sharing security intel, working together for cleaner air and more.
As we go into 2017, there seems to be no better time to start seeking the welfare of our city. If you are moved to action, we would like to invite you to get involved. We believe that change and transformation is best achieved from the inside. Join a political party, influence its policies, campaign for change and maybe even stand for election.
We, at the Liberal Democrat Christian Forum, are a movement of Christians seeking the welfare of London (and the rest of the UK) in the way and to the end that I have described. We are striving to be a prophetic and transformative voice in politics because we want to see the brokenness in our world restored.
If you want to join our movement this year, we would love to have you on board.