‘We must act and we must do it now’

Eight steps you can take to work for positive change in the world

December 21, 2016 | Young Voices | Volume 21 Issue 1
Brandi Friesen Thorpe | Special to Canadian Mennonite

This is a critical time in the world. From environmental threats like the Kinder Morgan pipeline, to the troubling rhetoric coming out of the United States after Donald Trump’s presidential win, many people are wondering: How can I make a difference and work for positive change?

More than ever, we are in need of brave people to step into the world and be the church, the body of people who show deep love to the world. We are needed to love, to make space for just revolution where settler and indigenous, man and woman, straight and gay, are all invited to the table. There is no future unless we are all invited to it.

Here are some steps to take and some questions to ask:

1. Learn from young indigenous voices. Read the words of young indigenous writers and speakers. These will be the leaders of the future we will need to support, encourage and be in relationship with. Go to their speaking events. Find out what they are pursuing justice for. Join them. We cannot make a difference in the world if we only surround ourselves with sameness. We need difference to teach us what sameness cannot. Don’t know where to start? Try Erica Violet Lee, a Nēhiyah philosopher from Saskatoon; Michael Champagne, the Cree founder of Meet Me at the Belltower in Winnipeg; Eriel Deranger, a Dene eco-warrior who defends traditional lands from oil development; and Red Rising Magazine, a new publication based in Winnipeg that features the voices of young indigenous people.

2. Ask questions. It is not always about the answers, but rather about finding the right questions, as these will create the needed responses. Find the points of resistance in yourself and your community, and examine why they exist. Are they for the right reasons? What do your beliefs require of you to be faithful in your social and political spaces?

3. Be an ally and an accomplice (visit bit.ly/ally-or-accomplice). Consider your position: Are you an ally supporting the voices of the marginalized? Are you an accomplice taking steps with your life to offer support? Are you willing to change how you live out community and how you pray? If you want to answer the call to justice, you must be willing to be both an ally and an accomplice.

4. Participate. Christian Peacemaker Teams has a team in Canada doing indigenous solidarity work. The Student Christian Movement has a chapter in Canada as well. Join them, support them, listen to them. If you’re just starting out, these are great places to learn and engage around issues. Support in any form will be welcomed.

5. Sign petitions. Do they matter? Yes. They don’t always change an issue, but they do communicate the rising consciousness and will of the people. Petitions gather solidarity, promote movement and are encouragements to those engaged in deep parts of the struggle.

6. Contact those who represent you. Whether it is your pastor, MP or prime minister, it matters that these leaders hear from their people. How else will they know that the people care? You can be an advocate. It is as simple as writing an email.

7. Create space during worship. Does your Sunday morning service have a moment to remember the struggles and celebrations of the land you live on? Consider introducing a moment in your worship or prayers that acknowledges the land you live on, its living history and the struggles that prevail. If you can express concern for the impacts of Kinder Morgan pipelines at home, there is certainly space for this concern in your communal prayers.

8. Join protests and demonstrations. Show up! Be present at protests that protect the dignity of humans and the earth. Be with the people and be a presence of peace in the streets. Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. spent time training people to peacefully protest and to be resistant love in oppressive places, to great effect. The more creative and peaceful the presence, the greater the impact. We need to be in these critical spaces.

It is important to step into the community and do the work of justice our faith calls for. This can only be done if it is matched with the work of addressing yourself: your fears, prejudices, relationships and your ways of thinking. These are the only ways to approach reconciling a relationship with those our colonial histories have made into “others.” These are the only ways we can imagine and accomplish a vision of a peaceable and just future.

The stress of the times gives us an opportunity to grow, rise together and do better. I have seen you, young dreamers, prophets and people of hope. We are capable of meeting these challenges, but there is no time to waste. We must grow, we must act and we must do it now.  

Brandi Friesen Thorpe, 27, attends Hope Mennonite Church in Winnipeg. She is a graduate student at the University of Manitoba and sits on the board of the World Student Christian Federation, a global social justice organization empowering students around the world.

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