The Justice Leadership Tour is an opportunity for young people across Canada to learn more about the effects of climate change on global food security, and to share these important issues with politicians and decision-makers on Parliament Hill.
Our group met at a hotel in Gatineau, Quebec, where we heard presentations by World Renew, the Canadian Foodgrains Bank, and the Christian Reformed Centre for Public Dialogue that helped us gain a better understanding of how climate change is causing food insecurity. We heard about the Paris Climate Agreement, a landmark agreement signed in 2015 by 195 countries that outlined a way forward to address the impacts of a changing climate. We learned that in spite of this agreement and a call for increased funding to address this crisis, there is still an enormous lack of funding for work in developing countries to help families facing the effects of climate change.
We also studied what the Bible has to say about advocacy. Throughout scripture, we are taught to defend the cause of the poor (Isaiah 1:17). The Bible contains many inspiring examples of advocates, such as Esther and Moses, who stood with and spoke alongside marginalized and oppressed people who were greatly affected by decisions made by people in power.
These learning sessions helped equip us to meet with a variety of Members of Parliament on Parliament Hill, asking them for their support in allocating funds to help small-scale farmers in developing countries, who are impacted most severely by the effects of climate change to adapt to these changes.
Why does climate change cause poverty?
A changing climate causes droughts, famine, floods, rising sea levels and salt contamination, as well as unpredictable rainfall patterns. One reason this is an issue is because 70% of the world’s most hungry people are farmers. When the climate changes, farmers can’t depend on the rainfall patterns and the growing seasons that they have relied on for generations. Because of increased floods in some places, and increased droughts in others, the developing world is facing a significant rise in the frequency of famine and the number of hungry people.
In 2015, the government of Canada pledged $2.65 billion to address climate change. Most of the funds were allocated towards mitigation, which focuses on reducing CO2 emissions. BUT…this is only part of the solution. We also need to help those who are already living through the effects of climate change.
As we met with Members of Parliament, our goal was to highlight the needs of small-scale farmers in developing countries, and to ask the leaders of our government to prioritize their needs by increasing the funding available for programs that help farmers adapt to a changing climate. By training farmers on how to grow crops even when rains are unpredictable, we can help small-scale farmers become more resilient to the effects of climate change.
Jesus was compassionate to all people, especially the widow, the orphan, the stranger, the hungry, the poor, and the sick- the most vulnerable in society. Jesus loved all people, and he urged his disciples to do the same.
A point that really stuck out to me throughout this trip was the importance of active listening. Some justice advocates may quote Proverbs 31:8-9, saying that they want to be a "voice for the voiceless". However, no one is voiceless, most often we are simply deaf to their cries. Our systems and structures favour certain voices, while preventing others from speaking. It is crucial that we listen to these voices and actively use our platform to advocate that others also hear and listen. We have the opportunity to break down the barriers preventing people from listening, so that we can all pursue change that is grounded in the voices and perspectives of the marginalized.
As a middle class Canadian, I have realized that sometimes my own privilege can lead me to ignorance and indifference about those in need. It is so simple for me to not care about an issue, solely because it does not affect me directly. For example, it is easy for me to forget about the conflict in Yemen because it feels so distant and doesn’t affect my day to day life. The culture of independence in North America is difficult to untangle ourselves from. May we enter into discomfort and proximity. May we listen and learn from people who are unlike us, and use our voices to amplify their stories.
Part of an elected official's job is to listen to constituents. Members of Parliament and provincial legislatures WILL welcome perspectives and input from you. Political advocacy does work, and it's a lot easier than you think! I recommend following your Members of Parliament on Facebook and Twitter, as well as following news outlets so that you can stay up to date on current events.
Another great way to show that you care is by writing to Members of Parliament and Cabinet Ministers about the issues you care about. A handwritten letter will only take you a few minutes to write, and the postage is free!
Lastly, you can book a meeting with your Members of Parliament and talk to them in person. I know this can sound scary, but they love meeting with their constituents and hearing what you are passionate about, and you don't have to do it alone! When I had my first meetings with Members of Parliament, I was so nervous, but everyone was so friendly and welcoming. The Members of Parliament were excited that young people were interested and engaging with the government, and they listened attentively to what we had to say. We even had a staff member give us a special guided tour of Parliament Hill!
This trip has made me more politically aware and engaged as a global citizen. It has helped me understand the importance of staying engaged in the decisions our government makes. Because we live in a democracy, it is our right and responsibility to hold our government accountable and have a voice in how policy is formed and practiced. We also have a call as citizens of the Kingdom of God to actively pursue the justice and redemption of all things on earth. Because of this, we strive to work in and redeem the broken systems on earth, including our government.
Please, please, please use your voice. Don't become mute because you think you can't make a difference. We are enormously privileged to live in a free country where we have the opportunity to voice our opinions and don't have to risk our safety to speak up for what we believe in. Let us take up the call to do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly.
To apply for the Justice Leadership Trip this year, recruitment for April 28-May 1 and April 30-May 3. Apply before March 15 at https://worldrenew.net/volunteer/justice-leadership-trip
Blog written by Jessica Banninga (wearing pink and in the far left) of the photo