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Reform Magazine | August 18, 2017

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Niall Cooper: Voices from the margins

Niall Cooper: Voices from the margins

Listens to voices from the margins

Voting is an important civic and Christian responsibility. But there’s a whole lot more to democracy than where we happen to put our little pencil cross on 8 June. What kind of stories do we tell about ourselves as a country, about the values we hold central? How we talk to each other across our differences? What are our visions, values, priorities, stories and identities? Voting is important, but this is the stuff of real democracy.

By 8 June, most of us will probably have had our fill of politicians, political parties, pundits and newspapers telling us how to vote, selling us this or that policy, and telling us why not to vote for the other side. But what of the voices that never get heard in the hurly burly of political debate?

When we talk of ‘shared visions and values’ just whose stories are we listening to? As Christians, it is incumbent on us to listen not just to the voices of those who we like or agree with. The challenge of Jesus is to go out of our way to hear, value and amplify the voices of those at the margins of society.

Over the past few weeks, I and my colleagues have been out and about visiting some of the places that politicians – and the rest of society – can conveniently chose to ignore. Places like the Cedwarwood Trust, right at the heart of the Meadow Well estate in North Shields, a neighbourhood on the banks of the River Tyne, where many people live in poverty.

‘Meadow Well has a reputation. Some people will not put Meadow Well on their address – they’ll just put North Shields,’ says one of person gathered for a group discussion at Cedarwood. ‘People think it’s rough, but there’s a good sense of community,’ says another. ‘There is a lot to be proud of, but people are not proud of the estate in the way that they should be,’ says Alwyn.

Dawn (pictured) adds: ‘Meadow Well has got fantastic community spirit and it’s a lovely, lovely place to live – however we have lots of residents who have massive issues with the bedroom
tax; we have antisocial behaviour; and education needs looking at – and health of course. That’s the thing we’d want the MP to be looking at.’

When the conversation moves on to the question of what challenges aren’t being addressed in this campaign, the message is clear. Sanctions, says one person. Sanctions, says a second. Sanctions, says a third. …

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This is an extract from an article that was published in the June 2017 edition of  Reform

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