Christians Protect "The Least of These" Through Advocacy . 12/2012
“In every community there are hundreds of people who cannot speak for themselves,” says Bishop Zebedee Masereka of the Bishop Masereka Christian Foundation. “In my own community in Kasese, western Uganda, there are vulnerable children, women, elderly persons, physically handicapped people, and many stigmatized men and women whose lives are extremely hard. Who stands in the gap and speaks on their behalf? It is the people of faith who provide a voice for the vulnerable members of the community. Christ himself encourages and mandates his followers to do things for those who are not able to support themselves, as stated in Matthew 25:40.”
Global health consultant and CCIH member Anne Wilson agrees, saying, “For Christians, the Bible includes many exhortations to love neighbor as self, to feed the hungry, care for the poor and bring comfort to those who need it. Advocacy is one of the ways in which Christians can ensure the voices of those often unheard will be heard."
CCIH's Board of Directors made the decision to add advocacy to its mission and to undertake a conscience effort to speak out on important causes in global health. While CCIH speaks out on a number of issues, such as HIV/AIDS and general support for foreign assistance funding. CCIH has made a concerted effort to advocate for improved maternal and child health through support of family planning programs to help families achieve healthy timing and spacing of pregnancies.
Jeff Jordan, senior vice president of programs for Catholic Medical Mission Board, explains why he thinks faith has an important place in the public square. "Faith matters in all aspects of our lives," said Jordan. "Jesus' command in Matthew 22:21, 'Render unto Caesar what is Caesar's and unto God what is God's,' is often used to discuss separation of Church and state, but we know as Christians that we are part of Christ's coming kingdom on earth and are called to prepare and be prepared. Advocating for issues of importance to our faith and calling is paramount to a faithful engagement in the world around us."
Jordan recommends using many forms of communication for advocacy. “Cards, letters, emails, twitter – mobilize all forms of communication when reaching out to your legislators,” he says. “Personal connections are even better. Find people of faith who represent other sectors as well – business, academia, trade – who are willing to join their voices to yours. And try to effectively match the qualitative with the quantitative, pairing faces of those affected by an issue with solid data means that you are making heart and head arguments together.”
Faith in Action: CCIH Advocacy Day 2012
"In June 2012," said Bishop Masereka, (pictured above to the far left on CCIH's Advocacy Day) "I had a rare privilege of spending a whole day on the famous Capitol Hill in Washington, DC participating in what was called Advocacy Day. The challenge that kept coming to my mind as we interacted with the big and the small on Capitol Hill was whether the sophisticated lot of the world do still remember the distanced low class masses of the world! I kept wondering whether our advocacy as people of faith was effective enough to shake even the toughest mountains, and cross the deepest valleys to reach the most vulnerable people. My reflections and challenges seem to be ongoing."
It is true that evidence of the results of advocacy is rarely immediate, and positive change often takes years of sharing messages with policymakers. “It is wise to continue to reflect on the reasons we engage in advocacy,” said Wilson. “Education is essential as well as an appreciation that changes may take time.”
Proof of the Power of Advocacy
How do we know advocacy works and that our time sending letters, calling or visiting a Congressional staffer or someone in the executive branch, and tweeting messages supporting our cause will have an impact?
According to Wilson, the successful advocacy by many groups, including the faith-based community, to ensure human and financial resources were allocated toward programs to help people affected by HIV/AIDS is evidence of the power of advocacy. "This was especially important in addressing the deep stigma associated with HIV/AIDS," said Wilson. "PEPFAR funding was influenced deeply through a broad array of advocacy activities."
Jeff Jordan adds, "It is well known that a combination of President Bush's personal faith and earnest advocacy on the part of faith leaders played prominently in the challenge to Congress that led to the tremendous expansion of programs addressing HIV and AIDS in the PEPFAR program."
Ethics, Economics and Keeping an Open Heart
Legislators must answer to constituents on how public funds are spent, and this is especially apparent in economic downturns, requiring advocates to address economic along with ethical arguments. “While moral, ethical and social justice arguments should stand on their own merit when arguing for health and well-being, it is helpful to bolster your efforts with economic and effective resource utilization underpinnings that help decision-makers who may not share your moral or faith imperatives see the return on investment for what you advocate.”
Anne Wilson recommends that Christians should anticipate encountering legislators or staff in the executive branch of government who hold different beliefs and it is important to try to understand where they are coming from and the pressures they are under: “The more we can appreciate the ‘other’ the more likely it is that we will be able to identify some common ground on which to begin a meaningful dialogue.”
Learn More: CCIH Advocacy Resources
Advocacy is important and it is effective. CCIH has a number of advocacy resources on our web site:
General Advocacy Resources
Visit the Advocacy Resources section of the web site to find resources on advocating for a number of global health issues.
Media Relations and Social Media for Advocacy Training
In October 2012, CCIH held a webinar on conducting advocacy through social media and media relations. The webinar is available on the CCIH web site for viewing, as well as the powerpoint presentations by Patricia Brooks of MatchMap Media and David Olson of Olson Global Communications. | Access the webinar and presentations
Faith-Inspired Advocacy for Global Health, Presentation by Adam Russell Taylor at the CCIH 2012 Annual Conference
Adam Russell Taylor, Vice President of Advocacy for World Vision discussed why Christians are called to engage in advocacy at this year's annual conference and principles for faithful political involvement. | View PowerPoint Presentation | Videos: Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4
Family Planning Advocacy Resources