In a dramatic intervention, the UK’s black church movement has issued a stark warning to politicians in the run-up to May’s General Election about “encroaching ideological imperialism” and “residual cultural hegemony”.
The warning comes in what is believed to be the first ever political manifesto issue by Britain’s African and Caribbean church movement.
The document, ‘Black Church Political Mobilisation – a manifesto for action’, has been published under the auspices of the National Church Leaders’ Forum (NCLF) – A Black Christian Voice for Britain’s African and Caribbean Churches – in preparation for May’s General Election.
It is believed to be the first time that the African and Caribbean churches have come together to create such a document and underlines the growing desire for effective political engagement amongst church leaders.
Copies have this weekend been sent to all Parliamentarians (both Commons and Lords) and other leaders in public life, including Bishops in the Church of England, the Catholic Church and other churches.
‘Ideological imperialism and residual cultural hegemony’
In a striking final section, whilst sympathetic to the ‘0.7% of GDP for international aid’ ambition, the Manifesto also carries a stark warning, “We are concerned by what appears to be an encroaching ideological imperialism, or ‘residual’ cultural hegemony, which is affecting British aid and foreign policy.
Responding to concerns that British aid could be used to coerce countries to change their viewpoint, the Manifesto reads, “We believe that by making assistance ‘conditional’ in this way, so that weaker nations are forced to ‘follow the leader’, the master-slave relationship is reinstated and ultimately our home nations are no longer free from British rule.
“Additionally, there is a long-held view that aid can create a dependency culture that ultimately undermines independence, self-development and national self-respect. Ultimately a nation may feel that its political economy, as well as it moral autonomy is weakened.”
‘Biblical view of marriage’
Elsewhere, the Manifesto highlights British society’s departure from the biblical pattern for marriage and the widespread social consequences for the UK. The Manifesto underlines a commitment ‘to protecting and promoting the biblical view of marriage – the permanent union of one man and one woman.’
‘Political significance and mobilisation’
The document is likely to be closely studied by political strategists given the growing size and influence of the black church movement.
African and Caribbean churches have grown significantly in recent years. By 2012, for example, nearly half (48%) of church-goers in London were black or minority ethnic (BME) Christians. Nationwide, an estimated 500,000 are associated with the African and Caribbean churches, concentrated in urban conurbations, and covering some of the most marginal constituencies.
The churches are often recognised as the most cohesive section of the black community, uniquely placed to help address social challenges and to reach communities that have traditionally had lower political engagement but which are now being courted by mainstream political parties.
Operation Black Vote estimates that the BME vote could decide the electoral outcome in up to 168 marginal seats.
The Manifesto sets out a 5-point ‘voter registration’ plan for churches to encourage greater political engagement by church members.
‘Black community concerns’
The Manifesto also highlights particular challenges for the black community and goes on to identify concrete steps for politicians and churches – e.g.
Policing,criminal justice and prisons (e.g. ‘on average, five times more Black people than White people in England and Wales are in prison’).
Mental health (e.g. ‘Black Caribbean and Black African men aged 13 – 24 years have the highest suicide rate of any group’).
Youth and education (e.g. ‘by the age of 22 – 24, 44% of Black young people are not in education, employment or training’).
Written following a number of consultation sessions, the Manifesto has been collated by NCLF co-Chairs, Dr R David Muir and Pastor Ade Omooba, and has received widespread support from church leaders.
Speaking as the document was published, Pastor Ade Omooba said:
“I am excited that for the first time the black church movement has been able to speak into the electoral debate in this way, highlighting concerns but also proposing positive steps to take. I hope that our political leaders who have expressed so much interest in the black community’s vote are now prepared to listen and discuss these recommendations.”
For information / interview:
Juliet Fletcher: 020 7117 2637 / firstname.lastname@example.org
Notes for editors:
The Manifesto is available here:
Black Church Political Mobilisation NCLF
An NCLF Leaders’ Summit will take place 11:00 – 13:30 on Saturday 14 March 2015 at Transformation House, 58 St John’s Hill, Clapham, London SW11 2AA. The event is free but advance registration is required.
The National Church Leaders’ Forum brings together key leaders in the African and Caribbean churches in the UK. The NCLF Steering Committee is co-chaired by Pastor Ade Omooba and Dr R David Muir.
NCLF has joined other faith community leaders in endorsing the Electoral Commission’s campaign to promote voter registration, as part of the Operation Black Vote road-show initiative.