• Helping pollies overcome their 'poo taboo'

    Posted by Micah

    4 October, 2011

    The topic of poo is not usual dinner table conversation for nice Christians, and certainly taboo during a meeting with a politician. But last week - and no doubt to the horror of etiquette experts - that's exactly what was the topic of discussion between the leaders of our country and 230 Christians.

    I was a first-timer at Micah Challenge's Voices for Justice. Like a little raindrop, I joined Christians from across Australia, descending upon Canberra in a deluge of justice, overflowing with love for the world's poorest people. The pitter-patter of these raindrops was a gentle but persistent sound our politicians could not ignore, as we advocated on behalf of people living in extreme poverty.

    This year, there was a focus on the pressing issue of sanitation in developing countries and increasing aid to 0.7 % of our Gross National Income (GNI). With the volatility of our current political landscape, it was particularly important to encourage both sides of politics to remember their commitment to our poorest neighbours in the global village.

    The event started with two days of training on politics, policy, advocacy and theology. We were very blessed to learn from Jayakumar Christian, the Director of World Vision India over the weekend. What struck me the most was his humility and obedience to the Lord. “God will always be the prime mover," he said. “God is already working amongst the poor, and our act is the second step. It makes our response to the poor not only an act of obedience, an act of worship."

    Being reminded that we were following God's footsteps was a liberating and reassuring feeling. I had never met a politician at Parliament House before and wasn't too sure what to expect. Would a politician listen to a 21-year-old Christian, with youthful idealism and determination to love the poor like Jesus did?

    My lobby group had four meetings, including with Tanya Plibersek (left) and Peter Garrett. I was surprised at how much they knew about Micah Challenge. “When Micah Challenge first started visiting us, not many politicians took the MDGs seriously," Mr Garrett said. “Now, nearly all politicians know about them thanks to you and the previous participants."

    Both politicians were supportive and were keen to be involved in campaign events in our electorates. They emphasised their commitment to increasing aid to 0.5 per cent of GNI by 2015 and the significance of addressing the issue of sanitation. As we left and much to their laughter, we gave them a toilet roll printed with sanitation facts, as a suitable reminder.

    Politics is often described as dirty, sinking to the lows of the gutter. Paradoxically, as we talked about sanitation, Voices for Justice showed me that politicians are willing to listen and that individual meetings with politicians can have a lasting impact.

    Voices for Justice was the highlight of my year, and unlike any Christian event or conference I've been to. It was extremely encouraging and inspiring to meet passionate and like-minded Christians, from all over Australia, young and old, representing different denominations - but united in Christ for the same cause: with a heart for God and for the poor. The event is now going to be an annual event on my calendar and I'm keen to bring a group from my Church and university.

    With the flood of voices in Canberra, it seems the 'poo taboo' amongst politicians is beginning to be flushed away. As Ms. Plibersek said, “It's difficult to make a sexy campaign on sanitation." But no sexiness will compare with the passion and the power of Christians advocating not for themselves, but for the world's poorest people.

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    Philip Chan is a Micah Challenge supporter and Voices for Justice 2011 participant. Phil studies media and law at Sydney Uni and volunteers in communications at the Micah Challenge office.