Advocating for Others
Baptist Leaders, Converge23
By Anthea Maynard, City Baptist Launceston
Converge is an annual gathering of Australian Baptist representatives in Canberra to advocate on issues close to the heart of our movement and the represent the 1000+ churches nationally.
This year, nearly 40 Australian Baptists from across Australia gathered for two days of lobbying and advocacy. Nicholas Alexander (Lifeway Devonport), Stephen Baxter (Mission Director & Hobart Baptist pastor) and I, Anthea Maynard (Team leader Launceston City Baptist) attended as delegates through the support and generosity of Tas Baptists.
The key objective was to elevate the ongoing and protracted crisis in Myanmar as a priority. We were asking for action from our elected representatives. Groups of four delegates from different locations met with members of parliament to introduce the situation. They then presented three asks and shared a personal story by a person from Myanmar. With more than 20,000 Baptists from Myanmar in Australia, this is an important opportunity to support them. As well, we advocated as part of a wider, ecumenical effort (with the Catholic and Uniting Churches).
Our campaign “We Must Not Forget About Myanmar” has postcards outlining the three asks to Senator the Hon. Penny Wong, Minister for Foreign Affairs. These postcards will be available through Baptist World Aid and Australian Baptist Ministries (see below). We hope that 20,000 printed postcards will end up on the desk of the Foreign Minister.
With different humanitarian crises happening around the world, the emergency for the people of Myanmar has fallen off the radar of the international community. This is our opportunity to make a difference. The United Nations Humanitarian chief, Martin Griffiths recently said, ‘successive crises in Myanmar have left one third of the population in need of humanitarian aid’.
Justice beyond ourselves
This was my first experience of Converge. It was a unique opportunity to work alongside Australian Baptist representatives from diverse roles and locations to highlight the needs and recent experiences of the people of Myanmar. It is my prayer awareness and support will grow, along with members of parliament noticing Christians advocating for issues justice beyond ourselves.
In my group, there were two delegates from the Myanmar Baptist community. Sui, from Perth WA, has recently graduated from nursing. She arrived in Australia as a refugee with her mother at the age of eight. Sui shared of her recent trip to some refugee camps on the Indian border. Sui encountered stories from elderly ladies who had fled their villages due to airstrikes. This year, airstrikes have increased dramatically in Myanmar to a current total of 289. Stronger, focused sanctions are needed to limit the capacity of the Junta to trade.
Biak was the other delegate, from Coffs Harbour NSW. She shared how her mother’s and father’s villages were burned to the ground in September this year. This was very distressing for her and her extended family.
The overall response by parliamentary representatives was engaging and positive. The Myanmar delegates were encouraged, and grateful to raise their voice with other Australian Baptists.
What to do next
Anthea Maynard is the pastor at City Baptist, Launceston
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