A wise person once told me that advocacy means to listen boldly. I have been trying to put that into practice ever since.
As a Seed group, we attempted to listen boldy by visiting Mesoamerica. We wanted to examine paradigms of power and change from the bottom up and see how Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) is involved in different ways of understanding and implementing advocacy.
The trip was challenging. It was hard to live out the chosen ambiguity of our experiences. In the name of research, we heard stories of suffering and of hope and are still figuring out our response. However, we do not want to simply participate in activist tourism or voyeurism, yet we cannot respond to every need we meet along the way: this too is a challenge of what it means to advocate.
Advocacy is an interpretive process. In order to advocate, one must understand. We are trying to learn to listen, to ask questions, to be contextually aware. But no matter how good we become at these skills, we always carry ourselves and our understandings with us. Everything that we hear, see and experience is understood through our unique filters of culture, context, gender, history and language, which is why, especially based on our historical presumption of Canadian/United States superiority and power, it is vital that we draw on other experiences and interpretations of advocacy.
Therefore, because of our trip and the diverse experiences of MCCers worldwide, we have compiled an entire edition of Intersections, MCC’s theory and practice quarterly, examining community-led advocacy and how it can impact MCC’s work. The issue reflects on solidarity trips between Palestine and Canadian First Nations, sharing across cultures in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Latin American perspectives, the impacts of our terminology and much much more. I had the privilege of an authoring article about working with the church in Colombia. Here is the link to the entire issue!
We are excited to share some these perspectives with you in the hopes of broadening the conversation. Will we arrive at the core of truth about what advocacy is and what it looks like in every situation? Probably not, but we will have a much greater chance at encountering more of the layers that encompass every process and story.
Let us go forth and listen boldly.