Advocacy experts equip SA Christians to make a difference in society

Dr Vinay Samuel (left) and Dr Chris Sugden of the Oxford Center for Religion and Public Life in the United Kingdom.
Dr Vinay Samuel (left) and Dr Chris Sugden of the Oxford Center for Religion and Public Life in the United Kingdom.

Last weekend, Christians from different sectors and interest groups in society gathered in Stellenbosch to learn about Christian advocacy and be equipped to bring about godly change in their different spheres of influence.

The Advocacy course, which was presented by the Stellenbosch Theological Institute (www.stionline.org.za), gave excellent opportunity to identify and discuss some of the particular challenges facing Christians in South Africa today, to share knowledge and experience, and to network with each other with a view to defending and promoting Christian values in society and so contribute towards the common good.

The course boasted international speakers Dr Vinay Samuel and Dr Chris Sugden of the Oxford Center for Religion and Public Life (www.ocrpl.org), who come with a wealth of theoretical and practical knowledge and experience in this field. During the course, they shared extensive Biblical, theoretical and practical content, which was supported by various case studies. Having engaged with similar public policy issues in a number of countries on different continents, their input and perspective with regard to the issues which South Africans must engage with were extremely valuable. 

Engaging media
In addition Andrew Marsh, media campaign manager of Christian Concern in the United Kingdom (www.christianconcern.com), gave practical guidance with regard to advocacy and engaging the media, including the running of campaigns, forming successful alliances and creating widespread awareness of important public issues that involve Christians.

Local speakers included Errol Naidoo of the Family Policy Institute / Watchmen on the Wall (www.familypolicyinstitute.com), who has been defending and promoting family values in South Africa for a number of years – both before government, and through the media – and who is often invited to speak and engage on international platforms with regard to these issues. (Watchmen on the Wall also filmed portions of the course, for broadcasting on the show in the near future).

Advocate Nadene Badenhorst, Legal Counsel of Freedom of Religion South Africa (FOR SA) (www.forsa.org.za), gave insight into some of the cases before the Human Rights Commission, the Gender Equality Commission, the Equality and other courts, that involve Christians. She also referred to various pieces of legislation that have come (or will be coming) before Parliament and that threaten to undermine Judeo-Christian and family values. Against this background, she emphasised the need for Christians in South Africa to stand united and speak as one loud voice to issues affecting our religious freedom and the autonomy of the church.

Marriage debate
Also, Philip Rosenthal from ChristianView Network (www.christianview.org) shared experiences regarding South Africa’s marriage debate, the successful campaign in 2003 that stood in opposition to policies that would limit religious freedom in schools, and also regarding the right of health workers to object to performing abortions.

A panel comprised of Lusani Mulaudzi from the African Christian Democratic Party (ACDP), Nicola de Jager from Stellenbosch University and Jackie Georgiou from Joy Magazine further introduced substantial debate regarding the current and future situation in South Africa, and in particular about what Christians are able to do to defend and promote their values in public life.

The course concluded with a motion to create a forum to bring Christian advocacy groups together to share knowledge, resources and to promote communication within the community of believers who are embarking on similar campaigns and causes. 

For more information about the course and/or to participate in the above forum, contact Dieter von Fintel at info@stionline.org.za

One Comment

  1. Great news about an important subject. I sense the need for a Forum to which any ordinary Christian could submit her/his concerns about any subject where Christian values interface with Government legislation. These could be debated and hopefully inform existing Public Advocacy groups, church committees, agencies – from where multi-pronged representations could be made. 1000 representations will carry more weight than one body representing 1000 members! Learn from the power of Avaaz petition mobilisers! Such a Forum would also publish a Directory of Govt and other contact details, so that effective representations could be made by any group, or individual. May God bless and use the fruit of this important convocation.