O ur supporters often contact us suggesting that we send our reports and regular updates to politicians, in order to make them aware of the plight of the suffering Church.
While we circulate our material to as wide an audience as possible – and some MPs, government ministers and key opposition figures do take notice – our supporters are in a much better position than Barnabas Aid itself to seek the support of politicians.
MPs are generally more interested in the views of their own constituents than organisations such as Barnabas. After all, it is their constituents who will decide whether or not to vote for them at the next election. Furthermore, MPs will often feel obligated to respond to letters from their own constituents, but not necessarily to correspondence from charities, aid agencies or pressure groups. Such groups are expected to be campaigning for a particular issue or adopting a particular stance – and as such we may have less impact than you in raising matters with politicians.
If you would like to share something brought to your attention by Barnabas Aid with your MP, here are some guidelines to help.
Write to your MP in the House of Commons
We recommend that in most instances you should write to your own MP. It is possible to write to a relevant government minister (for example, the Foreign Secretary) but a letter to your own local MP is more likely to gain a response. Remember that your MP will feel more of an obligation to write back to you, while a government minister who is not your MP may feel able to ignore your letter. You can ask your MP to raise the matter with the relevant minister.
Your MP is your representative whether or not you voted for them and whether or not you support them or their party. Do not write to another constituency MP just because you support their party. In the UK’s political system, the issues affecting the suffering Church around the world are likely to fall under matters that are the responsibility of the UK Government – therefore supporters in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales are advised to contact their MP in Westminster rather than their representative in the devolved parliament or assembly.
If you are unsure who is your MP, you can find out here: members.parliament.uk/members/commons
Write a letter rather than an email
MPs are more likely to take notice of a letter delivered by post than an email. Whether or not it is a fair reflection of your efforts, there remains the perception that sending an email is easy and can be undertaken without much thought or care, while writing a letter demonstrates more serious intent. Whether you write a letter or an email, remember to include your address and postcode so that your MP knows that you are one of their constituents.
[Your MP’s name]
House of Commons
Use your own words
It is usually better to write using your own words. Your MP is more likely to see that you are passionate, serious and committed by your own writing. One letter like this can have more impact on an MP than ten identical letters signed by different people.
Keep your letter brief and to the point
MPs receive a lot of correspondence, so it helps if your letter is brief and to the point. A letter of 5-6 pages will be skim-read at best, with large chunks of it overlooked or ignored. We recommend aiming to write one side of A4 paper, and certainly no more than two. Please do use facts and statistics to support your point, but using too many numbers and figures can deaden their impact.
Explain what you want your MP to do
In your letter, be clear about what you would like your MP to do. There is little point writing a letter that simply describes or complains about the situation facing Christians in a particular country – you must set out how you would like your MP to respond. In the case of Afghanistan, for example, you may want your MP to write to the Home Secretary or Minister for Immigration asking the UK to allow Afghan Christian refugees to settle here. Remember also that the ability of your MP to act may be limited, especially if they are not a member of the government. Your MP – or even the UK Government – is unlikely to be able to do anything for Christians imprisoned in North Korea, for example.
Feel free to respond – but know when to stop
If you disagree with your MP’s reply, there is nothing stopping you from responding with a second letter to express your disagreement and try again to make your point. The chances of changing your MP’s mind though are slim, so carefully consider whether such a response is a good use of your time. It is probably advisable not to send a third letter after this. Similarly, if your MP has not replied after three weeks, then it is acceptable to send a follow-up letter. Do not send multiple follow-up letters, however – this may be viewed as harassment, and certainly as a nuisance.
It is easy to become angry when we read of the persecution and suffering endured by our brothers and sisters around the world – but none of this is the fault of your MP. In practical terms, a polite letter is more likely to gain a positive response. A rude or bad-tempered communication can be safely ignored by MPs. Conversely, well-mannered writing may make your request stand out – sadly, MPs receive abuse all the time. Regardless of the practical advantages, remember that your MP – whether or not you agree with their views – is a person made in God’s image and worthy of respect.
Our Lord is sovereign over the hearts and minds of politicians, regardless of whether or not they are believers. When Nehemiah presented his request before the pagan king of Babylon, he “prayed to the God of heaven” (Nehemiah 2:4) and received a favourable reply. As you write and send your letter, pray that God will use it for the good of His suffering people around the world.