Advocacy should not be a dirty word
People of faith with an eye to the common good cannot afford to be silent.
The concept of “advocacy” may not resonate with Christians today, despite its relevance in our daily lives. Each one of us is familiar with the act of advocating. Children cry, hit, yell or give the silent treatment in response to feeling wronged (adults do this too!). Workers make the case to their boss that they deserve a raise. Church members suggest increasing the annual budget to include Fair Trade coffee or new windows. Doctors urge for treatment on behalf of their patients. Advocacy happens any time we use our power to push for a change, either for ourselves or others.
The biblical story of Esther is just one story of advocacy, showing how one woman used her position of power to save a whole race of people. As the story goes, the king throws out his wife after feeling disrespected by her. Esther, then, becomes the king’s new bride after winning a beauty pageant (you can’t make this stuff up!).
In her new role, she is required to be subservient in almost every way, or hazard death. Yet, Esther risks her life to plead that the king save the Jews from genocide plotted by Haman, one of the king’s staffers. And she succeeds! As her uncle says to her, “Who knows? Perhaps you have come to your royal position for just such a time as this?” (Esther 4:14).
Perhaps we, too, have come to our roles as citizens of a democracy for just such a time as this.
The story of Esther provides us with an example of how to use our power and privilege on behalf of others. Many of us feel as though we do not have any power, much less the ear of today’s leaders. But too often we underestimate our level of privilege and do not fully use the tools we have to advocate for change. In a recent meeting with Members of Parliament I attended about the role of churches in democracy, members from three different political parties quipped, “I don’t hear from churches enough.”
We do not need to be experts in order to advocate. Esther was not an expert on genocide or politics. While the magnitude of today’s issues might lead us to say, “Leave it to the government or other organizations to solve,” the perspective and insight of all people who care can make a difference. With so many different voices in our democracy, governments often ignore injustices under the influence of powerful lobbies or a preoccupation with obtaining the most votes. In this context, people of faith with an eye to the common good cannot afford to be silent.
Truth be told, many of us know how to advocate when policies or actions have a negative effect on us personally. However, we are called to look beyond ourselves and participate in public life in a way that enables just relations between people and care for creation.
It is impossible to deny the fact that suffering and injustice exists in our country and around the world. One in eight Canadians struggle to feed their families. Climate change is causing extreme environmental degradation. There are currently over 15 million refugees globally.
It is indeed for such a time as this that we must advocate for public justice.
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