Recently I experienced a heightened expression of God’s love for the poor during four days of worship, prayer, Christian fellowship, advocacy training and meeting with federal politicians during Micah Australia’s Voices for Justice event in Canberra.

It was my first time visiting our nation’s leaders at Parliament House and I was a little apprehensive as to how they would react when 180 Christians spoke with them about issues facing the global poor. To my encouragement, they were really quite supportive.

ADVOCATES FOR THE POOR: Eleanor Lober, second from left, and fellow Voices for Justice delegates (left to right) Bob Johnson, Jan Johnson and Paul Karlik met with Shayne Neumann (centre), ALP member for Blair.

 "It was my first time visiting our nation’s leaders at Parliament House and I was a little apprehensive as to how they would react when 180 Christians spoke with them about issues facing the global poor. To my encouragement, they were really quite supportive."

After two days of advocacy training we met with politicians to discuss Australia’s support of the global Sustainable Development Goals through overseas aid and reducing greenhouse emissions.

Meeting with politicians
We firstly thanked the government for helping plug the tax dodging leak through which developing countries lose $US200 billion each year - more than they receive in global aid. This involved thanking the Government for championing the Automatic Exchange of Tax Information (AEOI) global standard at the G20 summit. The AEOI will make it much harder for multinational companies to hide profits and dodge taxes.

We also requested that Australia increase its emissions reduction pledges at the UN climate gathering this December. We advocated for this because climate change can drastically limit the productive capacity of developing nations. Rising sea levels and storm surges are already contaminating fresh water lenses and crops on our neighbours’ islands in the Pacific.

Our final request was to reverse the downward turn in overseas aid, restore Australia’s leadership in aid by returning Australia to the top half of aid donors by the next parliamentary term and set out a pathway towards reaching our international commitment of 0.7 per cent of gross national income by 2030.

Personal impact
At Voices for Justice I was encouraged by the diversity of Christians humbly living out their faith. In my original lobby group of six we had people who were Catholic, Anabaptist, Presbyterian, Indigenous, unemployed and professional.

The contrast that struck me most was between myself, an engineer on a mine, and a woman who grew up on an island that has now been drowned by the Pacific. Although I help provide the resources necessary for roads, hospitals and houses, that doesn’t negate that I am partially responsible for the loss of my friends’ home.

Australia has the highest greenhouse gas emissions per person of any nation in the world, and whether it be through big homes or superannuation which may become mixed up in tax evasion, most Australians benefit from broken systems that contribute to poverty. So it was reassuring to hear the Treasury Department’s modelling indicate that the changes we were asking for at Voices for Justice would have very little impact on our quality of life. I know there’s a lot more we could be doing at the mine I work at to reduce emissions, some of which I can action myself and would improve profitability, but it would be more motivating to the company if the governments of the world made a level playing field through regulating the industry. A problem of institutional brokenness usually needs a corporate response. As we said at Micah, we are stronger together.

What’s next?
The coordinator of Voices for Justice, Pip Berglund, said: "if we’re only Voices for Justice in Canberra, we’re not (really) doing our job". The prayers prayed at the candlelit prayer vigil on Parliament House lawns on Monday night must continue if our advocacy is to have any strength. Our prayer is a form of advocacy to a powerful God, and it also empowers our actions as we advocate to our political leaders. So I plan to keep praying and speaking about these issues in my own local context, and I hope Christians around Australian will join me.

Eleanor Lober is a Cairns resident who works as an engineer in a Northern Territory mine and attended Micah Australia’s annual Voices for Justice for the first time from 10th to 13th October. The successor of Micah Challenge, Micah Australia is a coalition of churches and Christian organisations raising a powerful voice for justice and a world free from poverty.