My neighbour and the federal election

By Rebekah Sears

“An election is [an] occasion for Christians to consider the political implications of our faith—a time to discern with humility how Jesus’ call to love our neighbours may be reflected in the public good” – MCC Ottawa 2019 Federal Election guide.

“Who is my neighbour?” a lawyer famously asks Jesus in Luke’s Gospel. He was pressing for clarity from Jesus after reciting the summary of the law: to love God and to love our neighbour as ourselves.

The general principle of love for neighbour, or the Golden Rule, is endorsed in countless traditions and religious practices around the world. It’s also a staple of our international human rights law and principles. I can’t help but think of Norman Rockwell’s Golden Rule mosaic at the United Nations in New York.

Photo of Norman Rockwell’s “The Golden Rule” Mosaic, at United Nations, New York (MCC photo/Bekah Sears)

Yet, in a world that we are taught is fraught with division, where the tendency is to huddle in our own groups, putting up walls – whether literally or figuratively – to separate ourselves from others, to think of the “other” as enemy, Jesus’s response to the lawyer is just as vital today as it was in first-century Palestine.  

Jesus responds with arguably the most famous and challenging of his parables – the Good Samaritan. Essentially, it’s a story that humanizes and elevates the “other,” the supposed enemy of the Jewish people. It’s meant to be provocative and break down assumptions and walls – to push us out of our own huddles, to think of all others as neighbour, as possessing inherent dignity.

What does all of this have to do with the upcoming Canadian federal election?

So much of our Canadian election campaigns – the messaging, the platforms, the promises – are engineered and marketed in the “what’s in it for me” tone, be it economic issues, security concerns, or what have you. It feels like we’ve gotten to a place in our politics where both the voting public and political candidates or parties are fixated on quick-fix solutions and politically charged sound bites directed at short-term gain.

Many, if not most, of the promises being marketed do connect to wider issues that effect the every day lives of Canadians and others, but the way in which they are presented is for a hyper individualized audience. The messaging is about what’s best for the individual or specific group but not society as a whole, neglecting to consider the bigger picture and vital guiding principles, including the care for others.

A group gathers in front of the Canadian Senate to advocate for the passing of bill C-262, An Act to ensure that the laws of Canada are in harmony with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. (MCC Photo/Anna Vogt)

It’s easy to just blame the media, parties or candidates themselves for setting this tone, but we as the Canadian public have both the responsibility and capacity to help change the tone, to demand better from those seeking to govern. We can and must elevate our concerns for the other – the neighbour, our society at large – in this election season, and in the months that will follow.

In the political sphere, like many contexts we find ourselves daily, to promote the love and care for neighbour often means going against the grain or the norm to what we see and hear around us in the media. We daily demonstrate practices of compassion, in caring for our families and our communities. Let’s ask that that same compassion be applied to our public policies.

At MCC Ottawa, we’ve created a guide to help with this process, inviting Canadians to address some of the key policy issues of this election through the call to love our neighbours and seeking the public good – to bring these issues up with friends, churches, community groups; and to bring these questions to town halls, debates and when candidates come to your door.

Canadian government policies and practices, both at home and abroad, have real impacts on people in Canada and around the world.  We’ve outlined just a sample of those key issues we’ve heard from MCC partners and colleagues:

  • dignity within all stages of migration
  • solidarity in promoting rights of Indigenous Peoples
  • building sustainable peace in communities through restorative justice
  • ensuring definitive action to support those around the world impacted by climate change
  • seeking a just peace in Palestine and Israel
  • supporting local peacebuilders and non-violent development initiatives as opposed to military interventions
  • And more!
Kichan Shukur Amin stands in her kitchen garden in the Kurdistan region of Iraq, a project supported by MCC partner REACH through CFGB. (MCC photo/Kaitlin Heatwole)

In these last days before the federal election, we encourage you and all Canadians to reflect on how we can bring concerns for our neighbours to public spaces, our communities, the church pews, the kitchen table, the coffee shop and the ballot box.

See a full copy of MCC Ottawa’s 2019 Federal Election Resource here.

Rebekah Sears is the Policy Analyst for MCC Ottawa

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