• Voices for Justice 2011

    Posted by Micah

    18 September, 2011

    Participant Josh, reflects on the purpose of Voices for Justice and why he's back again this year...

    This weekend I'm heading down to Canberra.

    It's not for a leisurely holiday (although I have recently come to really like Canberra as a holiday destination!), but rather to attend The Micah Challenge's Voices for Justice conference.

    Basically, the whole idea for the conference is that a bunch of Christians from all around Australia descend on Canberra once a year in order to lobby our Federal political representatives in regards to acting on reducing global poverty. We hold them accountable to their bilateral agreement to the U.N. "Millennium Development Goals" (of halving world poverty by 2015), and also spend time learning more deeply about issues of justice and poverty.

    I like the work of The Micah Challenge generally, but I really love this conference for a couple of reasons:

    Firstly, it's not just another Christian conference where everyone gets together for the sole purpose of feeling good about themselves and to get motivated for the period of time until there's another Christian conference that will give the next "hit". The conference has a definite outward focus, rather than the inward focus that I have found at many other Christian conferences that I have attended in the past. The whole purpose of this conference is action and, after the first two days of learning about the relevant issues, the final two days of the conference are spent at Parliament House meeting with pollies. It's great!

    Secondly, it promotes issues that I think are very important for Christians to be grappling with, but unfortunately often do not. We discuss poverty, justice, climate change (and how it will inevitably affect the poorest of the poor most significantly), policy and, most importantly, what we can and should be doing about these issues.

    Thirdly, it's all about lobbying on behalf of others. Politicians have lobby groups or individuals asking for stuff all the time. What's interesting here, though, is that we go down explicitly for the purpose of lobbying for people other than ourselves. it's really quite interesting to see the politicians react to this, because lobbyists are almost always asking for something for themselves or their clients. But our purpose is to ask for things like more and better aid for those who need it most. We don't get anything out of it! The people we are lobbying on behalf of are usually the ones who do not have their voice heard, so we jump in and speak up for them, offering them representation where the voices of big business and self-interest might otherwise drown them out.

    Finally, we get to hold our politicians to account. Both of the major parties have committed themselves to the MDGs; it's our job to hold them to it. When things get tough, it's so easy for politicians to seek to try to find money by cutting Aid and Development budgets (and it seems to be quite a popular move in the eyes of some Australians). Tony Abbott suggested this very thing relatively recently (but, fortunately, Julie Bishop stood her ground on the issue). Our job is to make sure that we keep raising the issue - reminding our leaders of their commitments and responsibilities - so that we do end up meeting our goal of 0.5% of Australia's GNI for Aid and Development (and, hopefully, go beyond that!). We also spend time seeking to show ways of how that committment to more Aid can become better Aid.

    So, all in all, it's a really great conference!

    The focus for this year is child and maternal health, as well as sanitation issues. It is truly jaw-droppingly amazing how preventable so many deaths are and how easily we could see improvement in these areas if we just took the simple and very necessary action!

    Anyway, that's enough for now, but I'll bring some more details of what we got up to once I'm back from the Canberra. All I'll say now is that there could be a stunt or two to illustrate the issues we are speaking about, perhaps even involving a toilet...

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    This post originally appeared on Josh's 'Incoherent Ramblings' blog. Click here to read Josh's blog post in full.

    Josh is on the Micah Challenge Theology Working Group, a PHD student and lecturer in New Testament and biblical languages.