By Rick Cober Bauman
“Good, biblically-based advocacy shows love for our neighbours.”
I am paraphrasing but this is the essential message of our MCC Ottawa Office brochure.
At its core, advocating for “access to the lake” shows a long-term commitment to the well-being of our neighbour in a way that “giving a fish”, or even “teaching to fish” cannot by themselves achieve. MCC has worked hard to establish this reality over decades of commitment to advocacy as central to effectiveness in our work of relief, development and peace in the name of Christ.
Jesus could have given each family in need a dove for the temple sacrifice, but instead he overturned the tables of the money changers in the outer courtyard and sent them scurrying with an admonition to end their exploitation of the poor. He did not accept the terms of this unjust relationship and insisted the rules of engagement be changed.
MCC has not been known for overturning tables. However, we continue to seek multiple avenues to understand, speak into and at times shape public policy in ways that remove barriers to the full participation of all peoples, especially those on the margins.
We also look for innovative ways to invite you to join in the conversation with us, with each other, with elected representatives, and with those running for election.
Elections in Canada are a special moment of opportunity for engagement. This is a moment where those that would represent us propose and disclose what we could expect under their party’s leadership. Of course, MCC, like all charities whether faith-based or otherwise, is firmly committed to being non-partisan. We have no interest in supporting any party or person as the carrier of the “right” way.
Rather we provide resources and invite Canadians from the Anabaptist community and beyond to reflect thoughtfully and to pray without ceasing as they inform themselves before they vote. Our resources and our invitations tend to follow the areas of particular MCC experience and build on the wisdom gleaned from our involvement in these priorities, including connections with MCC partners around the world and at home. In light of our upcoming centennial in 2020, and our almost 100 years of working with people on the move, migration plays a large role in this resource. We provide information and questions around migration globally and refugees and asylum seekers coming to Canada. Given our A Cry for Home campaign, a focus is of course on the Middle East. In this election we also want to focus on Indigenous justice, an area where MCC has long and deep history, restorative justice, as well as care for creation where we are at a much earlier stage of engagement. Please take a few minutes to review our Federal Election Resource (French version). As you engage in conversation between now and the election, let this shape your discussion with other voters, in your church, community, and workplace, and your questions to candidates. Use the information found here as a lens through which to view party platforms and engage in social media.
While we encourage you to engage in conversations with others, we also know that such conversations can be challenging, especially around issues that are presented to us by media as controversial and polarizing. With that in mind, MCC has also prepared a companion piece for difficult conversations to guide us as we talk with others.
MCC walks with, and takes direction from, a wide swathe of Anabaptist groups in Canada. Some are less prepared to be engaged in the “public square” and we respect that they may engage more strongly with other elements of MCC’s work. I love that in MCC a supporter can choose a Thrift Shop, or the meat canner, serving in Southern Africa or joining a letter writing campaign. There is strength and beauty in MCC being an expansive canopy under which there are gathered at any given moment black bonnets, blue tattoos and what my kids used to say was the quintessential Mennonite car, the grey Corolla.
If you are reading this, you are most likely not wearing a bonnet. You may have a tattoo, and you may have chosen to live car-less. No matter who you are, and how you choose to position yourself in this tent, this is my invitation to you, as you prepare to vote:
Avail yourself of our election resources. Here are some ideas to help you get started:
- Invite a group at your church to discuss our material as they prepare to help choose the next Canadian government.
- Engage local candidates on questions that grow from your heart and where MCC ministry and information has developed expertise.
- Set up a space to talk about citizenship during elections with your small group or Sunday School.
- Use lunch-room conversations or family dinners as a chance to respect each other while practicing dialogue.
Above all, we invite you to enter this election season prayerfully, remembering our friends from Jesus back to Amos voicing their invitations to set the captive free, and let justice roll like a mighty river.
The English version of the election resources can be found here.
The French version of the primer is here.
Rick Cober Bauman is Executive Director of Mennonite Central Committee Canada