'We can hardly complain if we didn't vote': Christians urged to get involved in European Parliament elections

APThe plenary room of the European Parliament in Strasbourg.

The European Parliament elections have a long tradition of failing to attract large numbers of voters, but British Churches are urging their members to participate.

The elections have had a historically low voter turn out, with only a third of those eligible turning out for the 2009 European elections.  That compared poorly to the two thirds who voted in the 2010 General Election in Britain.  

To boost turnout and encourage people in the difference their vote can make, the Methodist Church in Britain, the Baptist Union of Great Britain and the United Reformed Church have produced a document highlighting the impact that decisions made in the European Parliament have on people living in Britain.  

The document does not support a particular party programme but sets out some of the issues that are important at the European level, including tax, migration, human rights and whether Britain should remain in the EU.  

It also explains how the EU and the European Parliament work.  

"European laws affect things such as energy security, immigration and justice," the document states.

"MEPs have an important job to do in shaping the laws of the society we live in and it is important to remember that these elections are for people to represent us in the European Parliament and not an opinion poll on the EU, or a warm up for the next General Election."

In addition to explaining some of the issues, the document gives practical advice on how churches can be part of the debate by holding their own hustings events. 

Andrew Bradstock, Secretary for Church and Society with the United Reformed Church, said Christians had a responsibility to vote.

"As people called to be good citizens, Christians should treat all opportunities to vote seriously, and there are hugely important issues at stake this time," he said.

"We can hardly complain if people and parties we don't like get elected and we didn't vote."

James North, Policy Adviser for the Methodist Church in Britain, agreed, saying:  "Living in a democracy as disciples of Jesus, we are called to discern whether there are policies that better accord with the love that God wishes us to share in our communities, and to decide how to vote on that basis.

"Whilst no political programme can be equated with the coming kingdom of God, Christians are called to engage with the political process and parties' manifestos to seek justice, transformation and love of our neighbour."