Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. Proverbs 31:8
An advocate is someone who speaks out on behalf of someone else to bring about justice. In Jesus we have the perfect example of an advocate. While we were still God’s enemies, he died on the cross so that our sins could be forgiven. Now he pleads with God on our behalf, as our advocate in heaven. There are many other examples of advocacy in action in the Bible, including Abraham, Moses and Nehemiah.
Advocacy means to speak or take action either with, or on behalf of, the poor, to change the situations that cause their poverty and bring about justice. This may involve speaking and working with groups, individuals, companies or governments whose actions or policies affect the poor.
In many ways, every issue of Footsteps is about advocacy, since our focus is always to inform and encourage people to take action on the issues we cover. However, this issue brings the opportunity to focus on how to be more effective in advocacy work for the poor. As Alexis Pacheco, Regional Advisor for Tearfund in Honduras comments, ‘We Christians need to be people who cry out for and uphold justice. Our involvement in advocacy reflects both the maturity of our faith and the start of a process where we become responsible for what God has asked of us: to take care of the lives of our brothers and sisters.’
People may be poor for many reasons: unfair trading systems, corruption, and unfair land distribution. Much work in development tries to improve the immediate situation of people caught up in unjust or difficult situations, while advocacy work tries to get to the root of these situations. Development and advocacy work thus need to go together and often it may be hard to separate them. Advocacy work aims to challenge the underlying cause of the situation, though it may take a long time before changes are made.