One billion people will go to bed hungry tonight. Every minute, another person is being trafficked into the sex industry and other forced labor. One-third of our global population has tuberculosis. I want to suggest seven strategies each of us can begin practicing right now to speak up on behalf of our global neighbors.
The first step is developing global awareness. You have to search beyond the mainstream news to get much of an understanding of what’s going on globally. Events in developing countries make headlines only when another atrocity erupts or a disaster occurs. A few ways to enhance your global consciousness include:
- Visit BBC news for one of the more robust purviews of world events.
- Check out www.worldpress.org for a quick overview of current stories globally.
- Visit www.languagemonitor.com to see the top 10 words of the year.
- Tune into public broadcasting.
- Consume a variety of news sources to see how the “same” events get reported differently.
Inform and Recruit Others
As you learn about various issues, weave them into your conversations. Look for ways to interject stories about our global neighbors.
When selling or buying a coffee blend from Ethiopia, reference how inspiring it is to see East Africans’ resourcefulness despite ongoing war and poverty in the region. When caring for a group of kids who say, “We’re hungry,” gently describe what hunger means for many kids around the world. As you have lunch with a friend, talk about an underreported news story.
The organizationally savvy may want to go further by coordinating a walkathon to raise money and awareness for a particular cause. Or you might develop an online network to coordinate efforts to grow awareness, prayer, advocacy and funding. Perhaps you could start a local organization that convenes around a concern or join other organizations already doing something like this.
Work It Into Work
Employees can influence their workplace to be an agent for God’s work in the world. For example, my friend Adam works as a computer programmer for a large grocery store company. Most days he sits in a cubicle working on various projects for the company.
Adam has observed the increased attention his company is giving to marketing and selling organic products. Because he is concerned about the environment and health issues, he celebrates this initiative. But he’d like to see the same kind of spotlight put on selling “slave-free” products. He’s approaching management with some ideas about how they can be on the competitive edge of selling a line of products like this while also doing good in the world.
There are countless other ways Christians can live out Christ’s presence in the world through the work they do. There are lawyers doing pro bono defense work for those unable to afford it, politicians working for legislation that brings about redemptive change in cities and nations, and pilots safely transporting people from one side of the world to the other.
Donating money is the most common response we’re offered when confronted with global needs. Recruit your friends and family members to join you in raising money for a cause. Garage sales, benefit concerts, party fund-raisers and walkathons are just a few of the many fund-raising strategies that your group can use. You can’t fund everything, but you can get involved somewhere with the people and causes dear to your heart.
Take some time to learn more about the products you buy, especially those you purchase most regularly and the ones that cost you the most money. Ask things like:
- Where and how was this produced?
- What raw materials were used in its production?
- What impact did producing this have on the environment?
- What sort of ethical track record is behind the companies involved?
Examine the companies you invest in, in light of their labor practices and environmental commitments. We should see our dollars producing returns there as well. Socially responsible investing (SRI) is a growing movement that measures social and environmental practices of companies as well as financial criteria. For help understanding the SRI movement, visit www.socialinvest.org.
Growing numbers of state pensions and investment companies are divesting from funds that directly or even indirectly support malicious dictators. The Khartoum government in Sudan is being starved financially because of efforts like these. Activists are helping cut off the funding for the genocidal campaign in Darfur, particularly by divesting from many oil and energy funds.
Influence Government and Media
Finally, send a letter, stop a genocide. It sounds too simplistic, doesn’t it? But Senator Paul Simon said that a mere 100 letters to each member of Congress could have changed the outcome of the genocide in Rwanda.
Writing letters to Congress, having face-to-face meetings with local officials, and sending letters to the editor of your local paper can raise public awareness of problems like genocide and human trafficking. The media, like any business, simply respond to the interests and demands of viewers. The news media need to hear from citizens in order to prioritize news and programs and focus on those we care about.
Here’s a specific word to college students who might view their influence as limited or, at best, delayed until they graduate from college. Historically, when governmental power has been threatened, it’s usually the students who are feared the most. Consider the revolutions that took place at the Berlin Wall, in Tiananmen Square, or during the 2009 Iranian elections to get a glimpse of the powerful ways that students can influence their governments and gain the attention of the news media.
Don’t discount what God can do through you. Every one of us can make a global difference. Start right where you are. Respond to God’s invitation and speak up for your global neighbors.
Adapted from What Can I Do? Making a Global Difference Right Where You Are by David Livermore, copyright 2011. Published by Zondervan. Used by permission. No portion of this article may be duplicated or distributed in any form.