If you came to visit us last month in Manchester, we hope you had a great time. We had some fascinating events and got some great feedback from the people who came along. For those who couldn't make it, here's a brief report to give you a flavour. Hopefully, you'll be able to join us in Brighton in 2015!!
The Labour Party began its annual conference in Manchester with a church service. Delegates joined local worshippers at St Ann's Church, where they heard Ruth Valerio, of Christian environmental charity A Rocha UK, call for people to aim to live consistently with their faith. Highlighting Labour's work to combat climate change while in government, she suggested the Party had gone quiet on the issue and that "Labour needs to be noisier on climate change." http://www.christiansontheleft.org.uk/labour_party_service_where_policy_and_lifestyle_meet
During the service, prayers were said for the people of Scotland following the referendum, and Tearfund representatives led prayers for the wider world.
Labour leader Ed Miliband spoke to worshippers after the service, praising the work of Christians on the Left in encouraging more people to become involved in politics. He identified Christians on the Left as "the ethical beating heart of our movement".
Andy Flannagan, Director of Christians on the Left, said:
"Starting conference with a church service is a good way to reflect and check our priorities ahead of a hectic few days. We heard a strong call to put our faith into practice in all parts of our lives, and to speak out too. Climate change is an issue we have a duty to address now, for future generations. Throughout the conference week, Christians on the Left are sharing how faith and politics go together."
During the conference Christians on the left echoed calls made by the Archbishop of Canterbury and other church leaders, for greater support for Christians and other minorities in Iraq and Syria. We also proposed a Contemporary Resolution on the issue, which can be found alongside an article by Political communications Officer Stephen Beer http://www.christiansontheleft.org.uk/we_need_to_take_a_stand
On Sunday evening Christians on the Left held a candlelit vigil for Christians and other minorities persecuted in Iraq and Syria, hearing stories from representatives from OpenDoors Uk. Prayers were also said for the wider Middle East, including Israel/Palestine.
John Denham MP joined us for a lunchtime event entitled ‘Why labour needs faith’ with FaithAction and Sikhs for Labour, where there was an encouraging collective voice from the representatives of all the major faiths. Daniel Singleton from faith in action made the case that faith is too significant to ignore.’ With John Denham suggesting that with the size of constituency that faith represents, it would be foolish of any government to ignore the contribution faith groups make.
At 4:30pm the official party Faith Reception was held. It was so popular that people struggled to get into the event. This was followed by our evening meeting with Prison Fellowship on Restorative Justice. We heard Inspiring transformative stories from those helped by the restorative justice work of Prison Fellowship - all heard and affirmed strongly by Shadow Prisons Minister Jenny Chapman MP.
Tuesday began with the annual Christians on the Left conference prayer breakfast. This year we held it with International Justice Mission which works to secure justice for victims of slavery, sexual exploitation, and other forms of violent oppression. We were also pleased to be joined by Free Church leaders who were visiting the conference.
It was great to hear of justice and freedom being worked out, not only as a concept but also in reality.
Christians on the Left volunteers also took part in a 5 Live radio debate on Tuesday morning.
The big event at Conference on Tuesday of course was Ed Miliband's speech. In a wide ranging speech, he focused on working together to build a better future for the country. He made six key pledges on how Labour would make this happen if elected in May 2015. http://www.labour.org.uk/blog/entry/2014-labour-conference-speech
On Tuesday evening we brought together Labour Party members and others to discuss what a manifesto for the common good should look like in 2020. Rushanara Ali talked us through the challenges facing communities. Naill Cooper of Church Action on Poverty helped organise us, as we discussed inequality and climate change. Our fringe meeting was a great example of how we work - bringing faith & politics together & being a bridge between church and politics
Iraq and Syria
Stephen Beer and fellow Christians on the left delegate Helen Dennis worked at Conference to highlight the plight of persecuted minorities in Iraq and Syria. Although the resolution on the issue was not debated, Stephen was able to question our shadow foreign, defence, and international development secretaries at a delegates briefing and call for more action on humanitarian aid and provision for asylum. Christians on the Left will continue to campaign on this issue.