The staff from Citizenship and Immigration Canada emphasized that it was very important for us to say the words out loud rather than silently mouthing the words—so important so that they actually walked around to check that we were making sound as we spoke.
On December 1, 2016, the board members of World Renew Canada, along with staff members Ida Kaastra-Mutoigo (Co-Director) and Melody Mendonca (Advocacy Manager, Good Soil Campaign), gathered in Ottawa for meetings with several MPs to ask the government to increase support for international agricultural development in support of small-scale farmers. We shared information about World Renew and about our participation in the #Aid4Ag proposal, which is supported by a coalition of 37 organizations (including World Renew and Canadian Foodgrains Bank), as well as 10 university professors.
...small-scale farmers produce 80 percent of the food in the developing world, yet many still go hungry because of degraded soils, poor infrastructure, environment risks, and lack of access to credit.
This proposal recognizes that small-scale farmers produce 80 percent of the food in the developing world, yet many still go hungry because of degraded soils, poor infrastructure, environment risks, and lack of access to credit. By increasing international aid for small-scale farmers, Canadians can help improve food security and improve nutrition, empower women, benefit the environment, and increase inclusive economic growth. The government’s aid for agriculture has decreased 30 percent in the last five years, even though the need remains great. Currently only about 6 percent of Canada’s aid dollars goes towards agriculture. Asking for an increase in this area would address global hunger in the most direct and sustainable way. (Info taken from the aid4ag.ca website and materials.)
This was my first visit to Ottawa, and my first time meeting with MPs, and I was deeply moved by the whole experience. From the first evening wandering up to the Hill, wondering when someone was going to stop me for walking too close, to the kindness of security guards at the entrances, and even the signs “Welcome to Canada’s Parliament,” I was deeply impressed by the civility and hospitality of our government. The MPs we met with were from various political parties and represented different ridings across Canada, but all of them took time out of busy schedules, listened to what we had to say, asked intelligent questions, and seemed genuinely glad to talk with us, even when we disagreed
In the past, I have sent letters to my MP, and it was interesting to hear “from the inside” what the effect of that is. One MP told us that one letter is easy to dismiss, to reply and then quickly move on to other things. But if they get as few as six letters from constituents on a similar issue, they start to pay close attention, and ask “What’s going on here?” SIX letters. That’s it. Do you know six neighbours who might be willing to send a letter to your MP? You probably do. And what better way to do justice and love mercy than this? What better way to advocate for transformed communities, for an end to global hunger, for a world that more closely resembles the love and justice of Christ than this? It costs us nothing but time. We have an immense privilege in being able to speak to our government about issues we care about; we should use it far more often than most of us do.
At a recent performance of Handel’s Messiah, I was struck again by the words from scripture “Their sound has gone out into all lands, and their words unto the ends of the world” (Ps. 19:4; Rom. 10:18). When I became a citizen, it was crucial that our words during the oath made an actual sound. And as Christians who follow in the footsteps of Jesus, our words should also make a sound; they should have more effect than just mouthing along silently to things we believe. Our sound can go out with the good news of Christ’s love and justice, all the way from the government of Canada to the small-scale farmers who are labouring to produce food in the smallest villages around the world. And that word should make the sound of love and mercy and hope.
Recent political events have left many of the university students I talk to feeling helpless and frustrated, several of them saying something along the lines of “What can we even do?” or “Why bother—no one is going to listen anyway?” What I said to my students after this trip, and what I would say to all World Renew supporters who are wondering how to move their justice advocacy beyond mouthing the words of scripture to words that actually make a sound, is simple: You have a voice. Use it.
PHOTO TOP: World Renew Canada Board Members John DeGroot, Marguerite Ridder, Rebecca Warren, and James Joosse with MP Mike Lake and Candice Baetz (Member’s Assistant)