In Part 1 of this series, I discussed why the church should play a leading role in the task of building a developed Nigeria. I strongly recommend you read all parts of the series covered so far (Part2: Prayer, Part 3: Messaging, Part 4: Training, Part 5: Healthcare and Part 6: Social Work) by clicking here.
We focus now on the sixth role – Advocacy and in the coming weeks, we will address the remaining role under connsideration – Mobilisation.
What is Advocacy?
Advocacy is mainly about engaging or lobbying those with the apparatus of power to effect change in required areas. The purpose is to influence change in society, whether it is appealing to an individual about their behaviour, employers about their rules or the government about their laws.
According to a paper from leading UK relief and development charity Tearfund on The mission of the church and the role ofAdvocacy by Graham Gordon and Bryan Evans, “Involvement in advocacy is vital, both practically and theologically, to the church’s calling to bring about justice, speak for truth, defend the poor and oppressed, and to work to redeem the whole creation. Advocacy involves both tackling individual cases of injustice or poverty, and tackling systems and structures that allow this injustice to happen. Advocacy is firmly rooted in the hope and promise we have for a better future and we do it in the confidence that God is working His purposes out.”
Why should the church play a leading role in Advocacy?
Huge disconnect between the Government and the governed: As a result, the government at all levels do not feel the suffering of the citizens and these sufferings are consequences of government inactions. Through Advocacy, the Church will become the voice of the suffering masses.
The need is urgent: In many of the cases that require the advocacy, huge numbers of citizens have lost lives and for those living, hope has been lost.
The Church has resources: Her huge financial and human resources (members) and her enormous influence provide the church with the best tools to make immediate inroads.
It is part of the Church’s key remit:One of the central themes of the Christian faith is to protect the worth and improve the opportunities of the most vulnerable, less privileged and socially disadvantaged. The Church knows this must be a core activity rather than a seasonal one.
As part of her nation-building role, the Churchmust use her strong voice with her convictions, to advocate inthese areas and this list is nowhere conclusive:
Fight against Corruption: It is a well-known fact that ournation is one of the most corrupt nations in the world andthere is no facet of oursociety that has been exempted from this malaise. The Churchmust speak out against corruption publicly and privately inconsultation with government representatives. She must alsobe involved in reporting corruption cases and mountingpressure on relevant government agencies and the judiciary toensure thorough investigation and prosecution are carried out.The church must act as a watchdog to ensure that everyNigerian is treated equally before the law. After all, the Churchbelieves we are created equal by God.
Fight against Poverty: It is the Church’s role to ensure thatthe hardship Nigerians are facing is impressed upon ourpolitical leaders. This she can do by speaking out from thepulpit, in the press, in private consultations with governmentrepresentatives, and by undertaking research on poverty andthen lobbying government with the findings to ensureimplementation.
Fight against injustice: One of the sad effects of ourunderdevelopment is the high level of injustice. It ranges from regional underdevelopment – like in the NigerDelta region – to false imprisonment, lack of deservedcompensation, owed salaries and pensions, oppression by thosein government, unfair trials from the law courts, long-awaitingtrial periods in prisons, etc. The Church should be a placewhere people can bring their complaints and be heard. Notonly be heard but be defended. She is the place of hope and thatmust include hope for those faced with injustice. That meansthe Church must invest her resources to fight injustice sufferedby the people.
Reforms: The Church has to be involved in the lobbying ofmembers of the legislative and executive arms of government toenable changes in our electoral law and process, securityagencies operation and funding, Education, Health and Socialfunding and reforms, etc. Again, her role in advocacy shouldinvolve offering well-researched options that will bring positivechange.
Health Epidemics: The Church should also be involved in influencing government and its agencies’ attitude to healthepidemics. These include maternal health, HIV/AIDS, polio, malaria, cholera,etc. She needs to seek increased government funding, training,expansion of services, innovative ways to treatment, preventionand the increased visibility for the victims to ensure theepidemic is better understood by government and the generalsociety.
Environment: Since the Church believes that the Earth wascreated by God, she must be in the forefront of advocacy for theenvironment. Our nation is daily faced with environmentaldamage and pollution due to rapid unplanned urbanization,overpopulation, oil spillage, car emissions, industrial waste,erosion, deforestation, desertification, etc. What is worse aboutour situation is that the nation is focused on provision of basicinfrastructure with little or noconcern for environmental impact on lives. This is why thechurch must lead this initiative to educate, inform andinfluence our policy makers, policy implementers,manufacturers and the general public about the urgency of thesituation, and the actions that must be taken.
It is important to note that the authenticity or legitimacy ofthe Church’s advocacy activities would be dependent upon heractivities in nation-building. For example, if she is investingfinancial and human capital in the educational sector, shewould have a stronger voice to advocate for educationalreforms through private and public lobbying. In effect, thechurch must lead by example.
Are you willing to take up this challenge with your Church leadership?