Voices for Change

Advocacy ministries of the ELCA want to share stories and your voices about public policies and relevant advocacy issues that are of interest to you.

The world we want

Posted on January 29, 2013 by Advocacy Ministries of the ELCA

By Dustin Wright, intern, Lutheran Office for World Community

Nearly halfway into my yearlong internship with the Lutheran Office for World Community at the United Nations, I have certainly been blessed with a wide variety of powerful experiences. I’ve sat in on meetings with ambassadors, planned for the upcoming Fifty-SevUN flagsenth Commission on the Status of Women with an ecumenical group of colleagues from other advocacy offices and even met two Nobel Peace Prize laureates. Through such experiences however, I’ve been burdened with one central question, “How can ELCA members throughout the country participate in the global conversation I experience everyday in New York?”

On the local, state and federal levels of democratic government, grassroots advocacy is an often difficult but fairly straightforward process. Organizers identify a legislative issue that lines up with the stated values of their organization and then urge others to contact government officials about either voting for or against related pieces of legislation. This process is straightforward because we, of course, elect government officials to represent us in decision-making; we are their constituents and we can hold them accountable by voting them out of office.

On the global level at the United Nations, things work a bit differently. Our Permanent Representative to the United Nations is not elected but appointed by the president and confirmed by the U.S. Senate. Because of this indirect system of representative democracy, our grassroots impact on global decision-making can often seem minimal.

Luckily, there is an exciting new way for Lutherans around the world to directly participate in global-decision making: The World We Want platform. In the year 2000, world leaders gathered to set specific global development goals to be reached by 2015, the Millennium Development Goals. Today the deadline is less than three years away, and we’ve made progress: access to clean drinking water has increased, fewer people live in unhealthy urban slums, and most importantly, the number of people living in extreme poverty worldwide has been cut in half. This success shows us that change is possible, but more must be done: inequality is growing, 950 million people still go hungry each night and climate change threatens the livelihoods of millions more.

When world leaders first met to create the Millennium Development Goals, they left something out, something important: your voice. Without your voice gathered together with others from around the world, without people-power, shaping the world we want is not possible.

This time, you have a seat at the table. Through the World We Want platform, you can participate in a survey on your priorities for the world and your community called MyWorld. Maybe you want to contribute on a deeper level? After creating a profile you can submit directly to consultations sponsored by a United Nations panel of experts. Perhaps you want to share your own story? You can post pictures or even a YouTube video, and share your posts with the Lutheran Office for World Community (lowc@elca.org).

A new world is being created. Whether it’s the world we want is up to us. Participate, contribute and share on the website — the World We Want.

 

 

A call to advocacy

Posted on January 16, 2013 by Advocacy Ministries of the ELCA

By Elise Scott, student at Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago 

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Last January, I was literally closing my suitcase to leave for my J-term trip to El Salvador when I decided to check my school email one last time. My timing could not have been better — I had just received an email from the ELCA Washington Office encouraging seminary students to apply for scholarships to attend Ecumenical Advocacy Days. When I read the email, I knew that I had to apply for one of the scholarships. Despite the time crunch, I immediately filled out the application and submitted it. 

Why was I so interested in applying for the scholarship to attend Ecumenical Advocacy Days? The answer is really quite simple — I see advocacy as an essential part of our call to love our neighbors as ourselves. Growing up as the daughter of a Lutheran pastor, I witnessed firsthand how advocating with and for the vulnerable in society revealed God’s love in the world. For instance, one Sunday evening when I was about 10 years old, church members gathered around tables in the church fellowship hall to write letters to their elected officials concerning hunger around the world. Prior to that evening, I had not understood that our individual voices could join together to make a difference. That evening helped me understand the integral role advocacy plays in living out our faith on a daily basis. And from that point forward, I knew I wanted to advocate with and for the vulnerable, the silenced, and the oppressed.

But even then, I did not fully connect a life of advocacy with a life of ministry. Because of my strong desire to advocate with and for those in need, I attended law school and worked in the legal field for several years. But my strong passion for hunger and poverty issues and advocacy continued to find its home in the church, not in my legal work. As I served on committees such as the Social Ministry Committee, the ELCA South Carolina Synod’s Ministry Team for Outreach, and the South Carolina Synod’s Taskforce for Operation, I became very aware that I needed a theological foundation to truly advocate in the way in which I felt called.

The ELCA Washington Office scholarship to attend Ecumenical Advocacy Days provided me with a wonderful opportunity to learn about ways in which I can advocate from a theological lens and also gave me concrete ways in which I can advocate for issues related to hunger and poverty. Through advocacy work, we as Lutherans have the opportunity to live out the very foundation of our faith by helping our government officials remember that all people in society are children of God who deserve to be treated with dignity and respect. Thus, as I read that email last January, I knew with certainty that my last minute trip preparations had to be put on hold — it was far more important for me to apply for the scholarship. For, in my experience, advocacy is where my faith truly comes to life.

The ELCA Washington Office is providing a limited number of scholarships for participants to attend the 2013 Ecumenical Advocacy Days. Click here to apply by February 4.