“Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy.”
A key part of Barnabas Aid’s work is encouraging and equipping supporters to use their voice to lobby governments and other bodies on important issues facing Christians not just overseas but also in the West. This includes signing petitions and writing letters to their local MP.
One of the best ways to make change happen is to influence the government, and one of the best ways to do that is by writing to your elected representative. Many take up issues about persecuted Christians precisely because their constituents ask them.
Here are our top ten tips for effective communication with your elected representative:
Pray about which issues to raise, what to say, and then pray that God will use your words.
Only contact your own elected representative (the MP for the constituency where you live). Protocols require that they normally only deal with voters in their own constituency, so it is a waste of time writing to other MPs unless they are government ministers with relevant portfolios.
State your case briefly and politely. Using numbers or bullet points can make the issues clear and easy to grasp. Remember the MP may have a thousand other letters and emails to deal with that week.
Leave party politics out of communications about persecuted Christians. If you want to write to your MP about party political topics, send a separate letter.
Remember that your MP is a fallible human being – just like you! They could be working incredibly long hours, separated from their family for most of the week. MPs suffer huge amounts of criticism and hostility. There is a culture in many Western countries that regards it as legitimate to question the motives of all politicians and treat them with cynicism and suspicion. This is very unhelpful, and Christians should make sure that their letters instead reflect the values of the Kingdom of God. A good test is to read your letter back and think how you would react if you received a similar letter.
Even if your MP disagrees with you, still be courteous. MPs and their staff can very easily develop negative views of Christians because of the tone of many letters they get.
Say thank you if your MP takes up the issues and especially if they speak in a debate. Sometimes when Barnabas Aid has sent a “thank you” email to MPs they have responded by thanking us for thanking them – which shows how few people bother to thank politicians.
Build a positive relationship with your MP. If the MP is at an event in the constituency, go and speak to them, perhaps thanking them for their hard work.
Members of parliament are generally open to invitations to attend a question-and-answer session at a local church. Take care around election times to be even-handed and invite all the candidates.
If you are involved in politics yourself, MPs will generally take more notice. If you are a local councillor, your MP is more likely to respond personally when you write, even if you are a member of a different party.