• Church leaders for aid!

    Posted by Simon

    21 July, 2011

    It might not always be as easy as Bono makes it look, but speaking up on behalf of people living in poverty, the most vulnerable of our global society, is not just an optional extra for those of us in the Christian faith. The Bible clearly tells us in Proverbs 31:8-9, "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."

    Since its inception in 2004, Micah Challenge has done just that by mobilising thousands of grassroots advocates to speak up to the Australian Government on behalf of people in need. At the recent trip to Canberra, Micah Challenge lobby groups showed politicians that those advocates represent a wide Church community in Australia, which is also unified and passionate about social justice issues!

    A couple of weeks ago, on a cold and windy Canberra morning (aren't they all?) a team of Micah Challenge staff and Church leaders from many denominations assembled in Australian Parliament House, including senior representatives of the Anglican, Baptist, Vineyard, Australian Christian Churches, Salvation Army, and Uniting Churches. The morning began with a breakfast presentation of the Micah Challenge Mother's Day cards to Minister for Foreign Affairs, The Hon Kevin Rudd.
    After breaky, the meetings with MPs and Senators began; a total of 32 meetings across the day certainly kept us all on our toes! Through my involvement with Micah Challenge and my advocacy role with Compassion Australia, I have had many opportunities to meet with politicians over the past couple of years. But these meetings had a different feel to them; the weight of so many denominations behind the cause was tangible! My particular lobby group included Rod Benson, ethicist and public theologian at Morling Baptist College; Donna Crouch, Executive Pastor at Hillsong Church and representative of the Australian Christian Churches network; and Viv Benjamin, Advocacy Coordinator at TEAR Australia.

    As we met with MPs and Senators from all sides of the political spectrum, the stories and passion from the Church leaders had all of us enthralled - even those of us who get to hear reports from the developing world all the time. Rod recounted stories of his childhood in Papua New Guinea; accounts of extreme poverty that he could recall in an instant. Donna discussed the aid work her Church has done in providing anti-retroviral medication to people living with HIV/AIDS in Kampala, Uganda. Our specific requests then focused on the need to sure-up support for increasing Australia's aid budget to 0.5% of Gross National Income and improving aid effectiveness by investing more in health related aid programs.

    Overall, the politicians we met responded warmly and positively; many agreed that the issue of poverty and injustice cannot be ignored. The Hon John Murphy MP even agreed to make an adjournment speech, so Church Leaders for Aid will be recorded in Hansard (parliamentary transcripts) forever!

    Overall, the day was a huge success. The momentum and support of the work of the Micah Challenge movement continues to grow. And I'm excited that you don't have to be Bono to be part of it. I'm looking forward to heading to Canberra again in September for Voices for Justice, and I get the impression that our politicians are looking forward to it too!

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    Simon Massey works in Child Advocacy Relations for Compassion Australia and also serves on the Micah Challenge Campaign Strategy Group.