Author: Sarah Parkinson.
I am a strong believer that our individual actions do matter, that the everyday choices we make can contribute to meaningful change. Sometimes, we may think that our individual behaviour change seems insignificant when set against the big, systemic issues of how the world is operating at the moment, but there is solid evidence that says the seemingly small actions of individual people can add up to create powerful impact. One of my favourite quotes that speaks to this is a Tanzanian proverb, which says:
“Little by little, a little becomes a lot.”
I first heard this while I was in Cambodia on a missions trip with my church, and it immediately struck me because it so perfectly encapsulated all we were learning during our experience. Phnom Penh is somewhat of a hub of NGOs and social enterprises, so we learnt a lot about businesses that exist for social good, and the idea that every time we buy something, we are endorsing a company and its activities. We heard the harrowing stories of women who moved from province to city due to poverty and climate-related lack of food security to work in oppressive conditions to make our clothing, and I decided afresh that I didn’t want to support such exploitative businesses through my purchasing power.
Through this and other experiences I’ve become a strong believer that being a Christian should impact how I live each and every aspect of my life, from the products I buy, to the amount of resources I consume and waste I produce, because my actions are to be driven by love of God and neighbour (Luke 10:27), not by social norms. Global issues such as international trade and climate change mean my actions here in Australia can’t be separated from the lives of those living in poverty and climate-vulnerability across the globe; we are all connected. So it is my responsibility to live in such a way that enables others to thrive, not to perpetuate the systemic injustices that constrain people in inequitable circumstances.
I am a strong believer that our individual actions do matter, that the everyday choices we make can contribute to meaningful change.
For some time now I’ve been volunteering with Tearfund’s Advocacy team and for several months the Renew Our World campaign has been focusing on the relationship between hunger, poverty and climate change and the ways that we, as Christians in Australia, can put our love for God and our neighbours into action and take steps towards ending hunger and securing a sustainable food future for all.
What has been so exciting to see is that with the launch last year of the Renew Our World Future of Food report we have since seen hundreds of Australians take meaningful action.
Through my volunteer role at Tearfund, I have been so encouraged to hear countless stories of Christians making sustainable food and lifestyle choices, to read hundreds of Future of Food petition responses, and to learn that our collective voice in support of the world’s poor and climate vulnerable is being heard by those in Australia’s corridors of power.View the Report
Part of my role with Tearfund’s Advocacy team has been to assist other Tearfund supporters in preparing for meetings with their local Members of Parliament to advocate for Australian Aid. This left me in a bit of a moral quandary as I was confronted with the fact that I was encouraging others to speak to their MPs in support of reducing global poverty and injustice, but I was not using my own voice in this way. I had signed petitions and written a letter before, but the prospect of actually speaking to my local MP was scary; I thought I wasn’t qualified at all to talk about aid and development, nor was I a person of significant influence in my community, so what could be gained?
When the opportunity arose to meet with MPs in Canberra, I felt convicted to go. I was nervous, but I realised that we elect our federal representatives to champion our concerns in Parliament, and unless we tell them that we care about tackling climate change to end global hunger and poverty, they will not know what their constituents stand for. Furthermore, how could I let my own fear and insecurity stop me from being a voice for justice when those in desperate need of this restorative justice are not free to use their voices? We are called upon to be speak up for those who are not being heard, to stand up for the vulnerable.
Together with Tearfund CEO Matthew Maury, Tearfund staff and volunteers, we met with eight of Australia’s key political leaders from across the political spectrum, and called them to do more through our aid program to support small scale farmers at risk of hunger and the burdens of climate change.
In these meetings we presented the Future of Food report together with messages from Tearfund supporters in the form of petition cards and engravings on a beautiful wooden bowl. These heartfelt messages written from all across Australia petitioned our leaders to do more to support those in poverty who are struggling with food insecurity and a changing climate. They also talked about why we as Christians care about a sustainable, just food future and the steps we are talking in our own lives to consume more sustainably. In a society where we rarely see the good in our government as portrayed in the media, it was so encouraging to see that each of the politicians we spoke to while in Canberra had overwhelmingly positive responses to our meetings, with some quite moved by our actions on behalf of our global neighbours.
Through this journey, I’ve realised that it’s only when our politicians know that Australians care enough, that they can act to shape a more sustainable future. They will only know that we care when we use our voices, backed up by the important lifestyle changes we have made, to demonstrate our commitment to and compassion for our planet and its people. Our actions matter. We can amplify the impact of our lifestyle changes and our prayers by sharing our concerns with others, and by advocating to government for systemic change towards the world we long to see, one with a sustainable future, free from hunger, exploitation and environmental inequity, and full of human flourishing as graciously intended by God.
Sarah Parkinson is a Physio, Tearfund Advocacy volunteer, avid traveller, keen baker, all around great person.