Advocating for Change: Equipping People for Advocacy and Justice

Others, Community Development

Contributed by: World Renew

Council members, pastors, and youth gathered recently for workshops in Ontario and British Columbia to learn about advocating for changes in funding and public policies that will help fight global hunger and poverty.

The two workshops were created and hosted through a partnership between World Renew and the Canadian Foodgrains Bank (CFGB), along with the wider ministry of the Christian Reformed Church in North America (CRCNA), as part of an ongoing effort to equip people for advocacy and justice.

Cindy Stover, a Justice Mobilizer for the CRCNA, developed the workshops to be a resource for congregations and individuals. The all-day workshops included sessions on biblical advocacy and how to communicate with local, provincial, and national leaders.

“Contacting elected officials may be daunting,” said Stover, “but sharing your well-informed opinion can make a real difference on the justice issues that you care about.”

A specific focus of the workshop was an advocacy campaign put together by CFGB. This I Care campaign is geared toward helping small-scale farmers, especially women, in developing countries.

Justin Eisinga, a public engagement officer for CFGB, explained, “Because of the type of work we do globally, something that concerns Canadian Foodgrains Bank and World Renew is that aid levels have been dropping while hunger has been on the rise over the last several years.”

In response, the campaign encourages people to sign a postcard to the Prime Minister and send letters to their Members of Parliament to let them know that they care about ending hunger and increasing Canadian aid in order to achieve this.

The workshop at Immanuel CRC in Hamilton, Ont., drew people from several Christian Reformed congregations and other area churches on Apr. 27. James Kornelsen of CFGB helped to facilitate the event.

“For folks donating a precious Saturday in April to increase the number of voices speaking up about injustice — that’s inspirational for groups like ours, who rely on Canadians taking action in a world where globally 821 million people still go to bed hungry,” Kornelsen said.

The other workshop, hosted by Ladner CRC in Delta, B.C., on May 11, brought together 16 people. John and Bev Bandstra attended the event and noted, “We were very impressed with how knowledgeable and articulate Cindy [Stover] and Justin [Eisinga] were about issues of justice and mercy, and with their passion for sharing this knowledge and call to action with us.”

Stover helped to facilitate both workshops, leading attendees through the process of identifying the Member of Parliament for their riding (political region), then writing letters to them to advocate for areas of justice such as affordable housing, global food security, or refugee issues.

As a result of these workshops, Stover noted, letters went out to over ten different Members of Parliament representing the Liberal, Conservative, and New Democratic parties.

Roxanne Stewart-Johnson attended the Hamilton workshop. A refugee from Jamaica, she shared that she had long wanted to be a voice for the voiceless: “But the question I’ve always had was ‘Where do I begin?’”

The workshop answered that question for her. Not only that, Stewart-Johnson said, but “Cindy cited some excellent Scripture that shows that justice and advocacy are close to the heart of God, who wants people to look out for the vulnerable and disadvantaged.”

Stover hopes to host additional workshops in the fall or winter. Churches can contact Stover to host a larger event, or receive coaching to download and run a smaller workshop themselves.

Anita Brinkman, CRCNA Communications