Guest Post: Reflections on Advocacy

The following was written by my friend Christa after she attended the Acting on AIDS Summit on the Hill last summer.  The author is a college student involved in leading the Acting on AIDS chapter on her campus.

I wish I had gotten this report posted much sooner, closer to the time when Christa so graciously wrote it for the blog this summer.  (The long delay was entirely my fault.  Christa, sorry for the long wait…I hope you know how much I appreciate your words and insights!)  On the other hand, maybe now — right before the beginning of a new year, and a new political environment in Washington —  is a good time to think about some of the issues Christa brings up.

*          *          *

I recently attended the Acting on AIDS Summit on the Hill, which was a combined leadership summit and lobby day focusing on the interaction of faith and justice.  It was truly life impacting.  The summit emphasized advocating with the poor and not simply for the poor.

To be honest, this whole idea of “advocacy” was quite new to me.  I had not previously considered my responsibility to advocate for the poor and vulnerable.  But I left the summit with the desire to pursue an experience that involves living with and serving the poor and vulnerable.  I have never gone on an extended mission trip and it is time for me to stop waiting for the opportunities to suddenly appear.  I need to actively seek out these experiences.  Mark Dybul, US Global AIDS Coordinator who spoke at the summit, discussed the idea of “to those who much has been given, much is required.”  He talked about the responsibility of American college students to use their education to advocate for the poor and vulnerable.  I have been given so much!  I am a Christian in the richest country in the world, receiving a private Christian education; my responsibilities are great, indeed!  Yet it is such a blessing and a privilege to be able to be the hands and feet of Jesus and use the resources He has given us to help those in need.

So right now, Africa needs to know if they can count on the new Global AIDS, Malaria, and TB bill that is a continuation of the PEPFAR bill (set to expire Sept 30, 2008).  During the summit, almost 90 students went to Capitol Hill and advocated for the poor by lobbying for the Global AIDS, Malaria, and TB Bill.  We were split into 13 groups and had over 35 appointments on the Hill to speak to the legislative staff of senators and representatives.  I was in the California group and we talked to the staff of Gary Miller, Dianne Feinstein, and Barbara Boxer. The Bill was passed by the House in April but is currently stalled in the Senate by Senator Coburn and several other senators.  We were basically asking the senators to urge the majority leader and minority leader to move the bill quickly so that it could be voted on.  This bill would authorize $50 billion for AIDS, malaria, and TB over 5 years, which includes $5 billion for malaria and $4 billion for TB.  It also has a 10% earmark for orphans and vulnerable children and includes funding for behavior change programs that incorporate infidelity and abstinence.

 

Mark Dybul emphasized that humanitarian aid like this new bill is no longer viewed as a donor-recipient relationship but a partnership.  This is a “philosophical revolution” in humanitarian aid according to the New York Times.  The goal is to come along side Africans and support their efforts to fight AIDS, other diseases, and poverty.  How exciting it is to see humanitarian aid be transformed, now with a more Christ-like face.

 

So now the challenge is to put all that I learned to practice, by God’s grace, and not let the passion fade!

 

>> Click here to read Christa’s notes on the seminars she attended, and her lobbying experience.

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~ by h.e.g. on December 6, 2008.

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