What is it? Why is it important? Can we REALLY make a difference?
It's impossible to be unaware of the persistence of poverty in the world. The problems can seem too huge to grasp – poverty, corruption, disease, and unfair trade.
But each of us has our own role, small but important, to play. And when we can join with a global movement of Christians all seeking to address these issues, our small voice becomes much louder, and each individual action is multiplied around the globe by millions who share our vision for a better world.
Advocacy means speaking up in support of someone in need. Around the world, millions of Christians are joining with Micah Challenge to advocate on behalf of the poor and disadvantaged across the world.
"Evil is present not only in human hearts, but also in human structures. And in those structures it can acquire an almost independent power of its own, so that good individuals with the best of intentions can be party to great corporate evil." – Robert MacAfee Brown
For Christians, advocacy needs to involve speaking to the powerful on behalf of the powerless about evil in human structures and about the power of God to operate in every area of his creation. We can intercede with those who possess human power.
One billion people in our world do not get enough to eat; yet there is more than enough food for everyone. God calls us to live justly and to be bringers of hope in a world of inequality and need. How can we stand up for God’s economic and social values in the way we live our lives? Is God asking us to use our rights to speak up for just and righteous behaviour? When others face discrimination, injustice or danger, we should advocate.
Micah Challenge is a campaign that helps us to be advocates for and with the poor - to help, comfort, plead the case, comfort and encourage.
Not many of us face physical danger for our advocacy. Many Christians live in democracies where we have a right to speak out on behalf of others.
Micah Challenge is asking Christians to speak up on behalf of the poorest and most vulnerable people in the world - to achieve greater justice for the 1.4 billion people who live without hope.
Another inspirational video from Micah Challenge Australia. It shows how ordinary Christians have become advocates through simple, creative ideas that have political impact. Take 10 mins to be inspired!
As part of their Stand Up Take Action, this is Micah Challenge Zambia on MUVI TV news for petitioning the Zambian Education Minister for equality in education
Micah Challenge is concerned to address the effects of poverty because we believe God loves all people and wants them to have abundant life. But we also need to address the causes of poverty – to look at global structures that deny poor people the chance to fulfil their potential. That is what Micah Challenge is all about. The campaign takes its name from the prophet Micah, who wrote, "What does the Lord require of you but to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God" (Micah 6:8).
Why do we find justice so hard to "do"? Maybe because it means laying our faith on the line in a public way. If we are advocates we have to intercede, to defend - and the people and structures we are up against are powerful. If we live reasonably comfortable lives, doing justice might also seem irrelevant because we are not victims.
Two Bible examples point the way for us. In the Old Testament, Esther was not overjoyed to be given the task of advocating on behalf of her people, the Jews, who faced total destruction at the cruel whim of the Prime Minister. Esther had a privileged life - she was a favourite wife of the King and no-one knew she was Jewish. She was afraid of approaching the king because it might mean death. But Mordecai convinces her to take the risk. He famously tells her that she may have been born "for such a time as this". The story tells us that prayer, fasting and astute advocacy saves Esther and her people.
Paul boldly uses advocacy to defend his own rights. Thrown into jail in Jerusalem and about to be flogged, Paul claims his rights as a Roman citizen. When the commander finds out Paul was born a Roman, he frees him immediately.
Some maybe cynical about what our actions can achieve today, or whether governments will listen. The good news is that over 190 governments have already agreed to the Millennium Development Goals. What this means in reality is, in part, up to us as citizens. We can choose to look on in cynicism or disillusionment, or we can choose to help our leaders see how our faith requires us to ensure that justice is done, by encouraging them to keep their MDG promises to the poorest in our world.
Politicians and leaders around the world would agree that they also require us, as citizens, to keep up the pressure on theses issues. Our advocacy gives them the mandate to continue to work towards creating fairer systems and just institutions. This is true from the international level right through to the local government level, and is what The Big Handover is all about. History is full of movements that dared to challenge the status quo. Let's start another.
Examples of the useful role we have to play, even as ordinary citizens, in the fight against poverty, in the words of politicians from around the globe:
Watch the Micah Challenge Australia video on visiting your politician. Inspiring and motivating, it shows how easy it is to organise a meeting, and importantly, how much it is valued by politicians themselves.
John McKay, Privy Councillor and Member of Parliament for Scarborough Guildwood is the Liberal Party of Canada's Official Caucus Liaison to faith groups, and gave us this comment:
"During my time as a Member of Parliament, I have witnessed firsthand the positive impact of advocacy organizations in the political sphere. As the elected representative of my constituency, I need to know I am supported by members of the public, including the organizations that represent them, in order to tackle issues such as poverty alleviation. The Millennium Development Goals are far too immense for just one or even a few individuals to take on alone. We must work together to create the clarity of vision to effectively obtain our objectives on the pressing issues that face us today. Positive, prayerful advocacy provides the momentum necessary to get important issues on the table and make the changes we so desperately require. It is always heartening to know that there are those on whom I can look for the encouragement to persevere. I commend you on your service, support and contribution to the needs of others, according to the grace of God."