Date published: Tuesday 25 September 2018
BY MARCIA BALZER
Positive change can happen in lots of different ways, but all of them involve someone – or more usually a large group of someones – raising their voice and talking about what needs to change. This, in a nutshell, is what ‘advocacy’ is all about.
This month saw 40 Baptist leaders from around the country visiting Canberra for the annual Converge event, meeting with federal parliamentarians to discuss social justice issues.
We spoke about two new reports and their recommendations during 58 meetings with parliamentarians and advisors.
No room: a report on domestic violence services in Australian communities set out the results of a survey of the adequacy of domestic violence services by volunteers from Baptist churches around the country in 28 federal electorates. This survey was part of A Just Cause's national campaign for churches in relation to domestic and family violence, No place for violence here.
The survey found an urgent and overwhelming need for short and long-term accommodation options for women and children trying to leave violent relationships. We asked politicians for a real commitment to solving the social and affordable housing crisis for all vulnerable Australians.
Baptist World Aid Australia also launched its first ever Global Neighbour Index report which ranks Australia’s performance compared to the 19 other top OECD countries in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.
Overall, Australia ranked 11th on the list of the 20 top OECD nations. We compare well with other countries in some respects, such as our level of trade with developing nations (6th out of 20) and level of immigration from non-OECD countries (5th out of 20). However, we can certainly do more to be a much better global neighbour in relation to carbon emissions, refugees and international aid where we ranked 18th, 14th and 19th respectively.
In the middle of Converge, I received an email that also demonstrated the strength and impact of the national Baptist movement speaking up for social justice. It was from Lindt Australia, telling me about the work Lindt is doing to ensure that their supply chain is free from child labour.
Back at Easter time earlier this year, I filled in a Baptist World Aid Australia postcard naming my favourite chocolate and asking the company to address the widespread use of child labour in the cocoa bean industry.
The detailed response I received from Lindt set out their work to pay farmers a fair price for their cocoa beans, support communities and fight human trafficking. It was a timely reminder that donning your business suit and meeting parliamentarians in Canberra has a place, but so does grassroots advocacy by citizens communicating about the change they would like to see in the world.
So I encourage you and your church to get involved in helping to make the world a better place. You and your church are probably already active in making a difference in your local community, providing a helping hand and a friendly face to people in your neighbourhood. Whether it’s through an op shop, playgroup, child care centre or men’s shed, this is a vital part of being God’s church.
But you don’t have to stop there. As groups of Christians who care about people in our nation and our world as well as our neighbourhoods, we can ask the powerful to work with us to make the world a better place. You can connect with tools and resources produced specially for churches by A Just Cause.
Another way is to speak with your local member of parliament about the issue you care about. It’s not complicated or difficult and Baptist World Aid Australia’s Guide to visiting your member of parliament will help you out.
To learn more about taking action for social justice, you can check out these issues where fellow Baptists are seeking positive change.
- Housing and homelessness
- Domestic and family violence
- International aid funding
- Climate and environment
- Refugees and asylum seekers
- Ethical supply chains
- Older Australians
- Recognition of First Nations people
- Poverty and income support.
Most people who take action to stand up for others find it a rewarding and empowering experience. As one of our Converge attendees said in our feedback survey: “I was really impressed by how the politicians were open to what we had to say. I think this shows it is a very worthwhile exercise. It was also a great chance to meet up with Baptists from around Australia.”
And another attendee said quite simply: “It was a great time and would love to be involved again.”