Living Social Justice

A blog about responding to poverty and injustice, everyday and in all sorts of ways

Archive for the category “Activism”

I Am A Citizen

The word ‘citizen’ tends to be thrown around quite carelessly without many of us taking the time to ask, how can we be good citizens? And what does it even mean to be a citizen? Margie Jansen shares how she’s grappling with her citizenship.

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I am a South African citizen. I know this – I have the green ID book to prove it – but whenever someone brings up what it means to be an ‘active citizen’ I often feel like the least qualified person in the room. I don’t even think I have a firm grasp on the way in which our democracy works! And I certainly don’t think that I’m an expert on our nation’s social ills.

So who am I to address the root causes of poor sanitation in Khayelitsha? I’m just a Wynberg-er with an unforgivably weak command of isiXhosa, let alone a deep understanding of what seems like a completely separate country on the other side of the M5.

I often ask myself, “How can I be an active citizen when nearly 20 years after the end of Apartheid, I still live a life that is severed from the majority of my fellow citizens’ daily experience?”

I’m working this question out on a daily basis. Partly because it’s my job as the coordinator of Micah Challenge South Africa, but mostly because I really care.

This is what I’ve got so far: I am a citizen. I’m sometimes a client, a customer, a voter, but I’m always a citizen. I’m part of this difficult-to-get-your-head-around, 50+ million strong community.

I may be white, my father may be an Afrikaner, I may not speak isiXhosa, I may drive a car, and I may have the luxury of crafting my vocation… I may be a minority for all of these reasons, but I am still a South African citizen.

And being a citizen inherently gives me the right to stand up for what I believe in and to fight against what I don’t. It gives me the right to vote in public servants in the upcoming general elections, and to keep those elected leaders to account afterwards. It gives me the right to work and serve for the common good, and not only in order to sustain my own existence.

I was recently reminded of a well-known fable about a villager who is standing on the bank of a river when he sees a baby floating down the stream. He jumps in to rescue the baby. But soon another baby comes floating down the river.

And then, another.

And another.

In no time at all there are so many babies being rescued from the river, it warrants starting an orphanage to take care of them all. Only later does someone think to ask: “Why are the babies coming down the river? Who is throwing them in?”

Why am I telling you this story? Well, because I believe it can help us understand what it means to be an active citizen. As citizens, we need to be asking the kinds of questions that challenge ourselves and our leaders to, as Tearfund so beautifully puts it, “Change behaviours, attitudes and policies that perpetuate inequality and deny God’s will for human flourishing.”

Along with loving mercy (Micah 6:8) —rescuing the drowning babies of our day and setting up ‘foster programmes’ to see to their well-being—acting justly is an equally necessary, biblical response that all Christians are called to be involved in.

This can all seem overwhelming at first but one of the simplest ways to start flexing your citizen muscle is to join what is already happening.

Micah Challenge is a global movement, active in over 40 countries, that mobilises communities to hold world leaders accountable to their promises. This year, in light of the G20 meeting to be held in Brisbane, Australia in 2014, we are embarking on a journey to shine a light on corruption through the Exposed campaign.

Globally, we are gathering 1 million signatures, which will aid our Australian partners (World Vision Australia and Micah Challenge Australia, amongst others) in getting the issue of corruption on the agenda of the G20 meeting. (Sign the Global Call here)

On home soil, the Micah Challenge hopes to inspire, educate and equip ordinary Christians to actively participate in our country’s democracy. (Like our Facebook page and sign up to receive our mailers for updates)

This is just one practical way you can team with other people already asking these questions  to discover ways you can take action.

I am a citizen is an identity statement. It’s a new way of seeing my role in my community and my country, and how this plays out in my walk as a Christian.

What does this statement mean to you?

– Margie is the coordinator of Micah Challenge South Africa. You can find out more about Micah Challenge on their website, www.micahchallenge.org.za

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EXPOSED: Stand Against Corruption

All you need to do is read the newspaper headlines to know that corruption is a very serious problem – but an exciting new campaign is giving us the chance to do something about it.

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Many of us can probably admit to having climbed atop a proverbial soapbox at least once to voice our frustrations about corruption in our country, right? 

After all, South Africa is mired in corruption from the small time bribery happening in shady alleyways to the gross mishandling of public funds taking place in the top rungs of government. It’s everywhere and we feel we have a right to complain.

But what if, rather than just complaining to our friends and family, our voices could be used to help improve the situation? What if we could actually become a part of the solution?

EXPOSED 2013 is a global call to Christ-followers around the world to take a stand against corruption and challenge those institutions which oppress the poor.

On a local level, its an opportunity for us as South Africans to learn more about how we can actively participate in our democracy and add our voice to governance and policy decision-making.

On a global scale, it’s a chance for us to petition G20 leaders to agree on anti-corruption action at the summit in Australia next year.

The problem of corruption is sadly not one that is unique to South Africa. Every year, over $1 trillion goes missing worldwide due to bad governance, tax evasions, mismanagement, and illegal business practices.

EXPOSED aims “to position Christians as advocates of justice and transformation in the nations we are called to serve” (EXPOSED) and is hosted by a group of Christian organisations including the World Evangelical AllianceBible Society (UK) and American Bible SocietyMicah Challenge International and others.

“We want to bring together millions of Christians from all denominations to take a stand and unite against corruption, fighting for the poor,” says Dr. Dion Forster, the International Coordinator of EXPOSED. “Corruption is one of the greatest obstacles to dealing with extreme poverty and the campaign aims to mobilise Christians to join with wider society in exposing the practices which oppress the poor.”

So what are your next steps?

1. Sign the global call to action here

2. Follow the campaign on Facebook and on Twitter

3. Sign up to receive email notifications here

For more info, visit the EXPOSED website!

We’re excited about the platform this campaign provides for us to discuss how we can all help fight corruption in our country.

Over the next few months, we’ll be posting articles and reflections on what this could look like. Join us in this conversation! We’d love to hear your thoughts 🙂

6 Ideas for Mandela Day

For those of you who haven’t checked your calendar recently, this Thursday, 18 July, is Mandela Day! Haven’t yet thought of how you’re going to spend your 67 minutes? Don’t panic…

What are you doing this Thursday?

What are you doing this Thursday?

On the 18th of July every year, thousands of people celebrate Nelson Mandela’s birthday by giving 67 minutes of their time to do something that will help make the world a better place in honour of the man who dedicated his life to fighting for human rights.

Ideas range from fixing potholes in your street, to helping someone with their CV so they can apply for a job, to spending time with the kids at a children’s home.There really is no end to the number of things you can do to be a part of this day. But if you’re stuck for ideas, we’d love to help you out!

Here’s a list we’ve put together of some ways you can get in on the action in Cape Town:

1. Lend a hand at Newkidz’s Siviwe House Revamp in Woodstock

2. Team with Living Hope and clear alien invasive plants!

From 10am to 3pm on 18 July, help clear alien invasive plants from a property so that it can be used for agriculture, training and empowerment in the future! This will be happening at Living Hope’s head office in Sun Valley. Contact Mario on 073 279 9190 for more info.

3. Join Stop Hunger Now’s food packing event at Canal Walk

4. Get gardening and help renovate a playground at Westlake United Church Trust

A group is needed of around 5-8 people to help reseal playground equipment and do some general garden maintenance at WUCT in Westlake. The sealer and brushes will be provided, but you’ll need to bring your own gardening equipment. Email us if you’re interested.

5. Help out at U-turn

U-turn has a number of volunteer opportunities available, from helping sort clothing for their second-hand store to, if you’re keen for some heavy lifting, moving filing cabinets! You could also drop off soup or stew in disposable containers, or get a team together to help chop vegetables for the soup kitchen. For more info, email U-turn.

6. Join the Mandela Day Human Chain!

On Thurs, 18th July, between 1-2pm, a group of people will be joining hands along Klipfontein Road to form a human chain to symbolize Nelson Mandela’s dream of a unified, non-racial South Africa.  The Human Chain will span between Rondebosch – Athlone – Gugulethu. For more info, visit their Facebook page.

And if you’re still needing help, read our list of 67 ideas for Mandela Day from last year!

So what are you planning on doing? We’d love to hear 🙂

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