Catholic Mission’s Advocacy Work
“You are the ‘now’ of God.” (Pope Francis, 2019)
Pope Francis is well known for his strong advocacy for issues of social justice in areas such as peacemaking, economic justice and protection for worker rights, solidarity with refugees and asylum seekers, and ecological justice.
Engaging in advocacy allows us to speak out and act for justice so that we can play our part in this transformation of the world.
These resources encourage you to use your head, heart and hands and join Pope Francis in advocating for a better world. This year our advocacy resources provide information and actions that:
- Reveal the place of Interfaith Relations for peace building
- Highlight the impact of climate change in Ethiopia
- Discuss the practice of female genital mutilation and how education can help to change perceptions around this
- Unpack the causes of and solutions to the exploitation of migrant workers
Conflict & Interfaith relations
In Ethiopia there has been a long history of mutual and peaceful coexistence between Muslims and Christians dating back to the historic welcome of exiled Muslim believers during the years 613 and 616. This period is known as the Abyssinian Migration.
In more recent times, conflict has occasionally occurred and has often been fuelled by powerful individuals and groups with vested political interests. In these spaces, religion may be used as a political weapon rather than a tool for social cohesion.
An important place for peace building in Ethiopia is a renewed vision of the Inter-Religious Council of Ethiopia (IRCE) which includes leaders from the seven major faiths and represents approximately 97% of Ethiopia’s religious population. This statement issued in November 2020 from the IRCE reflects a new vision for peace and democracy.
“Fellow Ethiopians back home and around the world, now is the time to listen humbly, to pray intensely and to advocate boldly for Ethiopian unity. The biggest war is to be won in our hearts — renouncing hostility while working for reconciliation and healing. Faith communities have a significant role not only as bridge builders but as bridge crossers. May each of us be peacemakers, rejecting violence and alienation”.
While climate change is a global concern, many countries including Ethiopia are more vulnerable to its effects. Increased temperatures and persistent drought threaten the economy and food security which is largely based on agriculture. Consequently, many Ethiopians are forced to leave their homes in search of employment and travel to places in Southern Africa, the Gulf and Europe. These migrant workers are often subject to unjust treatment and even slavery like conditions.
Ethiopia is a diverse country with 31 species of endemic mammals. It is also known as the global centre of avian diversity. However, like many countries in Africa, wildlife populations have rapidly declined due to factors including severe drought, deforestation, civil wars, poaching, pollution, and other human impact. Today Ethiopia has many species listed as critically endangered and vulnerable to global extinction. Climate change induced by greenhouse gas emissions is also a contributor to the environmental crisis in Ethiopia although Ethiopia contributes only 0.02% of the annual human-caused amounts of greenhouse gases.
Food security in Ethiopia also drives further loses to its natural forests due to conversion to farmland and overgrazing. The government is currently running programs to control deforestation based on education, reforestation and by providing access to non-forested land for agriculture.
Wangari Maathai, the founder of the Green Belt Movement and the 2004 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate overcame many obstacles and became an agent of change. The Green Belt Movement planted more than 30 million trees in Africa and helped about 900,000 women. “You cannot protect the environment unless you empower people, you inform them, and you help them understand that these resources are their own, that they MUST protect them.” ― Dr. Wangari Maathai
- Want to know more about becoming an advocate and change maker for people and the planet? Click here.
- Pope Francis’s Encyclical Laudato Si’, is being lived out through the The Laudato Si’ Action Platform - a collaboration between the Vatican, an international coalition of Catholic organisations, and “all men and women of good will.” (LS 3). It aims to empower us all to take “decisive action, here and now” as we journey towards a better future together. (LS 161). What can you do to care for our common home?
- Check out these amazing images from Ethiopian artist Aïda Muluneh, who was born in Addis Ababa and is an expert in African photography. Muluneh was asked by charity WaterAid to participate in a campaign highlighting water poverty and was pleased that WaterAid wanted to use her art for advocacy.
Female genital mutilation/cutting (FGM/C) and education
Female genital mutilation/cutting (FGM/C) is defined as “all procedures involving injury to or removal of the external female genitalia for non-medical reasons”. It is practised in 29 African countries, including Ethiopia, and in parts of Asia and the Middle East (UNFPA, 2020). Ethiopia has the world’s second largest total number of women and girls who have experienced FGM/C behind Egypt. There are many diverse and multi-dimensional factors that contribute to these practices including tradition, religious beliefs, marriageability, family honour and respect, ethnic identity and community acceptance, hygiene improvements and socio-economic factors. For many women and girls living in areas where FGM/C is common, the practice ensures social acceptability, marriage and better economic security.
Studies have found that FGM/C is declining or eliminated in areas where there is increased household wealth and education. While even basic education may be effective, educating mothers and fathers has also been proven to diminish the likelihood of this practice for young girls.
FGM/C and early marriage are also a push factor in rural-to-urban migration for many young girls who escape to the city for job offers and education possibilities. While some may have better opportunities, many are also forced to migrate overseas and may become victim to trafficking and exploitation.
- The United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 5 (SDGs) includes a target to eliminate all harmful practices, such as child, early and forced marriage and FGM/C by the year 2030. In 2012, the UN designated February 6th as the International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation, with the aim to amplify and direct the efforts on the elimination of this practice. Mark this date as a good opportunity to raise awareness about the issue. You can do this by bringing it up with your friends or family and starting a conversation or, you can share information on social media using the hashtag #EndFGMC.
- Find out more about Malala Yousafzai (pictured), a Pakistani advocate and activist for female education and the youngest Nobel Prize laureate. In 2013, Malala and her father Ziauddin founded a campaign called the Malala Fund to win every girl’s right for 12 years of a free and safe education.
“When the world is silent, even one voice becomes powerful." - Malala Yousafzai
Presler-Marshall, E., Jones, N., Oakley, E., Dutton, R., Baird, S., Yadete, W. and Gebeyehu, Y. (2022) Exploring the diversity of FGM/ C practices in Ethiopia. Drivers, experiences and opportunities for social norm change. Gender and Adolescence: Global Evidence.
Image: Licensed under Creative Commons. (UK DFID)
There are lots of complex reasons why people migrate to other countries for employment opportunities. However, many labour migrants face countless challenges in their transit and destination countries, including a lack of access to human rights, employment rights, and other social protections, such as access to the legal system and healthcare. Numerous Ethiopian women have flocked to the Middle East in search of work as nannies, caregivers and housekeepers. But what many sadly find is a cycle of exploitation and modern-day slavery that is hard to escape.
To address this, Government Ministers from 11 countries in East and Horn of Africa, have recently signed two agreements committing to a better realisation of the benefits of migration for sustainable development and economic growth, while enhancing protection for millions of migrant workers. Ethiopia is the new Chair of the Regional Ministerial Forum on Migration (RMFM) which also commits to working with destination countries to support migrants.
“As the new Chair of the RMFM, Ethiopia will take the lead in facilitating fora on migration, targeting issues regarding bilateral labour migration agreements, ethical recruitment, social welfare of migrant workers, cross-border trade, and human development - with particular emphasis on youth and women empowerment and labor migration data and statistics,” Muferiat Kemil, Ethiopian Minister of Labor and Skills.
Sport has a great capacity to motivate and inspire large numbers of people, bringing together people regardless of faith, race, culture, gender and ability. However, large sporting events have a major environmental and social impact. Recent coverage of the 2022 Football World Cup in Qatar has highlighted the abuse and exploitation of migrant workers who are building the new state-of-the-art stadium for this event. You can read more and advocate here to end this type of labour abuse.
Even in Australia, migrant workers are vulnerable group who are subject to exploitation. And like in many countries this has been exacerbated due to COVID-19.
- Find out more about the Global Compact for Migration (GCM) the first, intergovernmental agreement, prepared under the auspices of the United Nations, to cover all dimensions of international migration in a holistic and comprehensive manner. The GCM intends to reduce the risks and vulnerabilities migrants face at different stages of migration by respecting, protecting and fulfilling their human rights and providing them with care and assistance.
- Investigate the Migrant Worker Rights Navigator Tool which allows you to explore and better understand current issues facing migrant workers in a transnational context. This navigator tool links different migrant rights issues to relevant international human rights instruments and GCM objectives.
- Join the Australian Young Christian Students (AYCS) a student run movement which allows students to be the agents of change for issues that are of important to them. AYCS understands that everyone’s reality is different, and support open, non-judgemental dialogue.
- Make contact with your local Australia Young Christion Workers group – AYCW are an international movement run FOR, BY and WITH young people, striving to SERVE, EDUCATE and REPRESENT young people by empowering them to be the change they want to be in their lives, communities and the world, based on their VALUES, BELIEFS and FAITH.
Calling all senior secondary students!
Are you passionate about social justice and issues that affect young people? Want to learn more about a problem, why it is important and how you can take action?
Why not get some like-minded students together and form a YCS (Young Christian Students) group!
YCS offers a unique opportunity for students to lead discussions on what they are most passionate about. Centred around our Catholic faith, the Review of Life means high school students can apply Bible teachings to their own modern day realities and explore how faith applies to them - "What would Jesus do in these situations?"
“We understand that everyone’s student reality is different, and we support open, non-judgemental dialogue. YCS as a movement is student run, allowing students to be the agents of change. Based in over 80 countries, YCS develops lifelong Christian leaders, and are supported by a large network of peers, adult volunteers, and paid workers”.
To find out more contact Catholic Mission.