Be Thou My Vision (reflections on Voices for Justice 2015)
October 2015 - Henrike Brussaard
We are underway to Canberra and I am quickly checking my emails one more time. I see that I received an email from Micah with the latest updates and what to bring with me.
“Things to bring: Professional attire for meetings in Parliament House”.
So far my in-depth research of what this conference is really all about has yielded nothing about this!
Through my work with the Australian Student Christian Movement I am very blessed to be involved with organisations that are likeminded and focused on the social justice theme as well. I love the opportunities to learn more about the country I just moved to, the culture and how people here put their Christianity into action. When the opportunity came to go to the conference “Voices for Justice”, an event that others were raving about, I was very happy to go there and join fellow ASCMers from across the country at this conference.
Micah Australia has just re-launched itself, after a successful campaign for the Millennium Goals which ended in 2014. Just recently, the Sustainable Development Goals have just been launched and Micah Australia is continuing their effort to work towards a better future especially for those who are poor and need help.
Once per year they organise Voices for Justice, a conference with a special focus on lobbying with politicians for these voiceless people. I never realised how established they are and how much they actually do. It was great through Micah to be able to talk to senators and MPs at the Parliament House, and ask for their help to work towards more foreign aid and more action on climate change.
It felt a bit funny to be involved like this, as I am far away from having any voting rights in Australia as an immigrant who is still ‘being processed’. But as I mused on the implications of that little sentence in Micah’s email, at the same time the possibilities became clear for me. It is just not me, but the wider community that I am involved in. I meet so many people that have the same mindset and that are looking to receive this baton from me, and can be inspired through my experiences. Isn’t that what is most important?
The conference was a great mix of worship, prayer and information. I especially loved it when the ‘flavour of Christianity’ did not play a role at all (it actually never came up in conversation, how about that?), but we were all on the same track in the pursuit of a greater good.
Personally, the conference has rekindled the love for the planet within me. The workshop about Climate Change asked us when we started to care about this issue. It really made me wonder what happened with my younger me, who was passionate about the earth and all the living creatures on it. Especially hearing the personal stories, the numbers and the effects of climate change in the Pacific rekindled that fire within me even more. What are we, as human beings, doing?
Besides the personal faith and possibilities that I have in my work, besides the conquering of the feeling of entering the lion’s den (Parliament House) as an immigrant, this experience has opened up another world for me when it comes to politics. The political world was always a distant world, those people who rule the country but where I have little to do with in my life, except for the occasional vote in my home country. The whole political world never felt approachable; it was a far-away kind of thing. It is a world on its own (especially after being able to experience Question Time) but next to that, the ‘political’ people don’t feel very approachable and I guess I always felt indifferent about the fact that these are actually the people that are ruling the country on our behalf. Shouldn’t we have a better relationship with these people to tell what we care about? How can they rule on our behalf if we don’t at least attempt to some form of connection? Isn’t it easier to shout at politicians from our lazy couch instead of attempting to actually interact with them and tell them our views?
During one of the meetings with a MP, we got a chance to talk to his Vietnamese intern. The intern was a human rights activist in his own country and has now the opportunity to experience how Australia is doing things on the Parliamentary level, and also engaging with our labour law. It was such an eye-opener to listen to him. He really has great hopes for the Sustainable Development Goals as a way to improve the human rights situation in his own country. It is not a goal on its own, but through the scrutiny of other countries as well, he saw hope that there will be improvements on human rights as well.
Voices for Justice has given me a lot of new information and ideas, but if I should pick one word that I will take home with me from this experience, it will be ‘awareness’. There should be more awareness on the topic of Australian Aid to the poor and needy; we don’t even know how lucky and rich we are. There should be more awareness on climate change. It is happening, and we might just complain that the seasons are all messed up, but the poorest regions rely heavily upon those seasons to grow crops and receive the necessary rain.
It is not everybody’s calling to do volunteer work in a poor country (it doesn’t hurt either though but that is besides the point), but in my humble opinion it is our Christian duty to be aware of the people that are less fortunate than us (and that is a lot of people and countries) and who have no means to speak up for themselves in their governments or on a global level. But most of all: be aware of the opportunities that we have here in Australia to help them.
So what can you do?
- Take a look at the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) of the UN. Not only to see what you can do, but also read a bit more on how Australian Aid can help those poorest countries improve their situation.
- Do you know what the opinion of your local MP is on foreign aid and climate change? Or maybe you found something else in the SDGs that is close to your heart. Consider writing to your local MP. It doesn’t have to be a long communique, but they really like to hear from people within their electorate. That has potentially more impact than your vote.
- If you really feel close to the topic of Australian Aid, pay a visit to their website for more inspiration. The same goes for Micah Australia, TEAR, Common Grace, etc. Lots of inspiration and likeminded people out there.