Northern Ireland's bishops urge people to get out and vote in election

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The Catholic bishops of Northern Ireland have exhorted politicians and the public to continue to find reasons for hope ahead of the general election on 4 July.

In a pastoral reflection titled Give Reasons to Hope, the Irish Catholic Bishop's Conference encouraged believers to vote, and laid out a list of areas in today's society where hope is desperately needed, offering solutions rooted in the teachings of Jesus and reflecting Catholic social teaching.

Their statement began by emphasising the importance of voting, even when believers had differences of principle with the governments of the land, saying that exercising their franchise was the only way to work for change and bring about a better future for Britain.

"We are appealing to everyone who has the ability to do so, to participate in the democratic process by exercising their hard-won right to vote," the statement read.

"Even where there is no candidate who reflects the full range of a voter's values or aspirations, it is still a fundamental Christian duty to maximise the good we can do by taking part in the democratic process."

However, the bishops also reminded politicians that 'without a vision, the people perish!' and said that political leaders needed to give people concrete reasons for hope or risk a fracturing of society as confidence in politics erodes.

"People are constantly saying to us things like 'society is fractured', 'politics is broken', 'life has never been so stressful', and 'every day is a struggle, like never before'," the bishops said

"It is no coincidence that in this environment, our society is also reporting an unprecedented crisis in mental health, not least among younger people and children."

Calling on politicians to offer a vision for society built on the basic needs, dignity, and inherent worth of all, the bishops offered a list of key areas where voters should be calling on the government to implement policies that would restore hope, holding them to account at the ballot box.

"As Christian leaders, we continue to be inspired, and driven in our steadfast hope for society, by the vision of Jesus, that we might have life, and have it to the full (Jn. 10:10)," the statement continued.

Expressing their concern that there had been a progressive decline in respect for the fundamental right to life, the bishops warned of the dangers of a worldview that determined a human being's value based on their position in society rather than on their inherent dignity as God's creation.

The statement also reinforced society's duty to protect the most vulnerable, whether at the beginning or end of their life, and stated that the greatest crisis society faced was not an ecological or economic one, but a growing breakdown in social cohesion.

The bishops described a Biblical vision of society based on a foundation of hope, one where everyone is treated with dignity, can find a place to live where they are welcome and secure, where the faith, community, and voluntary sectors are valued, and, above all, where there is justice and reconciliation for all.

"In this short reflection, with deep gratitude and respect for all those who put themselves forward, with courage, and commitment to public service, for elected office, we express our sincere hope that, if elected, they can shape a better future for us all," they concluded.

"We also express our conviction, rooted in the promise of Jesus to be with us to the end of time, that even yet, there are many reasons to hope!"