Weekly Blog - 4 May 2024 - Year of Elections


Year of elections

Voters across England and Wales went to the polls this week on Thursday 2 May to elect local councillors, mayors and police and crime commissioners.  Meanwhile in India national elections are running until 1 June, the focus of last week’s Arise weekly action on the India Election.  These are all part of a major year of elections, with at least 64 countries going to the polls throughout 2024, representing half of the world’s population.  Amongst these will be the UK general election, expected sometime in the second half of the year, and of course the US presidential election which will culminate in November, the results of which (whichever way it goes) will have major implications not just for the US but for the whole world.

Of course not all of these 64 elections are being held under conditions which are free and fair.  The recent election in Russia in March being a particular notorious example.  Even in many long established democratic countries, popularist politicians have increasingly flirted with more autocratic tendencies in recent years, as explored in an Arise blog last year on Democracy Undermined.  In February, Freedom House’s latest Freedom in the World report, one of the most credible sources of data on the subject, found that the state of democracy and human rights in the world has been declining for the last eighteen years in a row. 


The importance of democracy

Democracy is incredibly important.  A major report from Arise, the Arise Manifesto, looks in detail at what standards for justice, good governance and human rights countries should have.  As Christians, we read in the Bible how God wants all governments, everywhere, to rule well, with justice, fairness, impartiality and integrity (Arise Manifesto, pg 79 – 85).  As God instructs the leaders of his people in Deuteronomy, Appoint judges and officials for each of your tribes in every town the LORD your God is giving you, and they shall judge the people fairly.  Do not pervert justice or show partiality.  Do not accept a bribe, for a bribe blinds the eyes of the wise and twists the words of the innocent.  Follow justice and justice alone, so that you may live and possess the land the LORD your God is giving you” (Deut 16: 18 – 20).  In our modern world, democracy has been one of the most effective ways of making sure this Biblical principle is put into practice.  Democracies have a much better track record of governing well and effectively with justice, and good standards of human rights, civil liberties and basic freedoms than autocratic states do (Arise Manifesto, pg 102 – 108). 


Protect democracy and participate in it where it does exist

As Christians we should defend democracy and stand by it.  We should do all we can to support and defend the legitimate democratic institutions and the checks and balances on power that keep societies free, democratic, and good respecters of human rights.  For many of us fortunate enough to live in broadly free democratic countries, it is all too easy to think the gradual loss of democracy ‘could never happen here’.  But the events of recent years, like the storming of the US capitol in 2021 or attempts to overthrow election results in Brazil in 2023, offer us a powerful warning.  So too should the lessons of other countries like Russia which has descended from a relatively free democratic system in the 1990s after it emerged from Communism, to the current state of extreme autocratic repression under Putin.  These facts should remind us that democracy and human rights can never be taken for granted (even in the most historically democratic and free countries).  They must always be protected and strived for.  Democracy is too important and precious to throw away.  It has served the world well.  All of us at every level: politicians, civil servants, public figures, the media, community leaders, churches, individual Christians, and every citizen, should use our actions, our public voice and our votes to protect and strengthen democracy. 

A key part of this is making sure that as Christians, we take our democratic responsibility seriously and turn up and vote.  As we have seen, God wants to see every government and local authority ruling with fairness, equality, justice and care for all in society.  In a democracy, we all have a crucial role to play in appointing those authorities, when we vote.  It’s a privilege that millions of people around the world do not have and are desperately seeking. 

Christians should pray about who to vote for, look into the manifestos of all the major parties, and vote for the one we feel most closely reflects Biblical teaching on establishing social justice, ensuring prosperity, eliminating poverty, caring for all in society and restoring the environment.  Of course, no single political party will reflect all of God’s standards.  Each will be good on some, not so good on others.  There is no such thing as a perfect political party.  We can’t be purist, but should vote for the one we feel matches God’s standards most closely.  We should also avoid obsessing over any one single issue, rather it is a question of which political party’s overall balance of policies we feel most aligns with God’s standards for social justice, ensuring prosperity, caring for all in society and protecting the environment.  For help in discerning this look at God’s standards for the change he wants to see in our world in Parts 4 – 6 of the Arise Manifesto, look at the Bible, and the literature from the parties, pray about it and decide for yourself.


Help to bring about democracy through Reform Movements where it is not yet present

Where democracy does not currently exits, or is under significant threat, it has been shown over and over again throughout history that mass peaceful domestic reform movements are the most effective way to bring it about.  This is another key conclusion from the Arise Manifesto report.  We see this in the lessons from the Bible (Arise Manifesto, pg 86 – 88), where prophets like Daniel challenged the rulers of their day, “Renounce your sins by doing what is right, and you wickedness by being kind to the oppressed” (Dan 4: 27).  We also see it when we look at the lessons from history (Arise Manifesto, pg 108 – 119).  In recent decades peaceful reform movements have had dramatic success in Serbia, Madagascar, Georgia, Ukraine, Lebanon, Nepal, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, East Germany, Slovenia, Mali, Bolivia, the Philippines, Zambia, South Korea, Chile, Argentina, Haiti, Brazil, Uruguay, Malawi, Thailand, Bulgaria, Hungary, Nigeria, and many other countries.  Of course such movements require great courage and perseverance from those involved.  They are not guaranteed to succeed every time.  But overwhelmingly the power of ordinary people peacefully refusing to submit is remarkable, and has continually proved the most successful way to improve democracy, human rights and good governance in nations around the world.

Throughout history, Christians and churches have played a hugely important central role in such reform movements (Arise Manifesto, pg 283 – 303).  They have worked well alongside journalists, academics, activists, students, trade unions and others in the movement.  Supporting such bottom-up Reform Movements (and the Christians that are so often at the heart of them) is one of three key focus campaigns for Arise. 



Free, fair, properly accountable democracy really matters.  Where it exists we should vote and participate in it, and stand up to attempts to undermine it.  Where it is not yet present we should help to bring it about through peaceful bottom up Reform Movements, so often led by Christians.  Wherever we are, let’s make sure we use our voices for good and for God’s Kingdom in this Year of Elections.


Find out more

Find out more about how God is at work in the world, and the role we all have to play in that work, in the Arise Manifesto.  This report is Arise’s big picture, researched, Biblical, holistic and practical vision for a better world.  It looks at what the Bible says, and what we can learn from the best data and the world’s leading experts on the five major areas of evangelism, discipleship, social justice, development and the environment.  It then draws these lessons together into a practical road map for the changes we need to see in our world, which the Arise movement campaigns to achieve.

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