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Saturday, December 3, 2016
Campaign to engage young Catholics in 2010 election
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young campaigners at Westminster
“Why should I bother about the Election?”  Have you heard young people saying this? How many can match names to faces of the big movers and shakers of the main political parties?  Do young Catholics agree with the key issues identified in party manifestos? How much do they know about Church involvement in social concerns?

Why Bother? is a campaign to urge young Catholics (15-25 years) to become involved in the forthcoming General Election. Why Bother? resources have been developed by the Livesimply Youth Network of the Catholic Church, and are an excellent tool for youth leaders and teachers. They can be downloaded at: www.whybother2010.org

Hearing a series of statements about politics, political parties and politicians, and after each one standing along a line down the middle of the room between the 'agree'  and 'disagree' spectrum, is a simple way to get young people exploring their perceptions of the political world. Devising their own election manifestos will help them consider what their own priorities would be if they led the country. What pop songs could they use to express their views to politicians?

The resources prompt young Catholics to meet in groups and explore the link between the 2010 General Election and the lives of young people. Creative techniques and activities – such as games and quizzes - are provided alongside useful information about the Catholic Church’s Social Teaching and information about policies of the different political parties.

'Why Bother?' can be used with varying group sizes, with a variety of experiences of faith and is designed to be interesting and fun. Sessions are aimed at Catholic young adults who are eligible to vote, but will work equally well in exploring politics with younger people - perhaps as part of a confirmation programme, a school election campaign, or as part of a PSHE class. As the General Election nears there will be further resources available for downloading.

In their pre-election document, issued in March 2010, the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales suggested that social issues are not just the responsibility of the British government but of all citizens. The head of the Catholic Church in England and Wales, Archbishop Vincent Nichols, urged everyone to “participate in the wide-ranging and necessary debate about the values and vision by which we seek to construct a just and civil society”.  This includes Britain’s young Catholics.

According to Monica Conmee, CAFOD’s Youth Coordinator: “the fact that more young people are likely to vote in the Big Brother final than at a General Election, is a real concern for democracy”. She feels the Why Bother? resources address this challenge, “helping young people recognise that they shouldn't underestimate the true power that voting in an election can give us”. 

Danny Curtin, National President of the Young Christian Workers, feels that being political is part of being Christian. “To live our faith is to choose to care about ourselves and about others, to choose to care about our world” he says “and that means getting involved in what matters and choosing to be bothered about how society is run”.

Voting is described as “a powerful tool” by Richard Greenwood, Chair of the Livesimply Youth Network, who says the new materials “have been developed to challenge young people to take their vote seriously and consider that a vote is not just for themselves”.

Cristián Domínguez, a CAFOD partner and climate change campaigner in Bolivia, recognises the significance of the campaign from an international perspective. "We are citizens of the world” he says, “and when you elect your politician, elect someone who guarantees that our great-grandchildren can inherit a world like we have today”.

Last month, the Catholic Youth Ministry Federation (CYMFED) found in its research ‘Mapping the Terrain’ that young Catholics expect to get more involved with social action and feel positive about their futures in society. The agencies involved in CYMFED - including Young Christian Workers, CAFOD and Pax Christi – renewed their energetic commitment to engage with young people regarding the mission of the church, particularly its social teaching.

For more information see:  www.cymfed.org www.cymfed.org.


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