rush.visit.jpgFrom March 9-12, nearly one thousand people from church communities all over the United States came to Washington for Ecumenical Advocacy Days. AFJN members joined their sisters and brothers in a weekend of workshops, worship and preparation for lobbying the new members of Congress. Of the one thousand gathered at the Doubletree Hotel, nearly one hundred and fifty had come specifically to reflect on issues facing the people of Africa. On Monday morning the 12th, hundreds of committed Christians headed up to Capitol Hill to meet with members of the Congressional staff to demand greater justice for the children of the United States and the world.

Ecumenical Advocacy Days was begun four years ago, an initiative of AFJN, the Washington Office on Africa and other Washington-based faith-based advocacy offices. Each year there has been an increase in the number of people involved and the number of issues upon which people reflect and lobby. This year’s version featured several ‘tracks’ which represented the various interests of the participants. Members of AFJN joined the “Africa Track.” Other tracks dealt with Latin America, Jubilee and Economic Justice, Asia-Pacific, Global Security, Eco-justice, the Middle East and Domestic issues.

During the course of the weekend participants met in large plenaries for worship, lobbying preparation and for keynote speeches. Different tracks organized workshops on issues concerning the theme of children. Participants received folders full of information and suggestions for action. By following the links in this article, readers can access the documents that were in the folders of the Africa Track, including the Africa Track Backgrounder, the Child Trafficking Resolution from the 2006 AFJN Annual Meeting in South Bend, the Oblates’ Justice and Peace/Integrity of Creation Office’s “Responding the HIV/AIDS Pandemic” document, Church World Service’s call to “Increase U.S. Funding to Fight HIV/AIDS in Africa” as well as their appeal for funding for an African Health Care Workforce, and American Friends’ Service Committees’ “Talking Points on the Debt” amongst others.

Throughout the weekend, speakers interacted with the participants in workshops that treated topics such as the international debt, child soldiers, US Africa Policy and African priorities, Darfur, Genocide and the International Response and many more. AFJN Executive Director, Rocco Puopolo and intern Jacques Bahati joined other panelists to speak about child soldiers from their personal experiences in Sierra Leone and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Jennifer Way, spring intern at AFJN, was responsible for a prayer room that was available all weekend for the participants, providing an atmosphere of calm and serenity in which to center themselves and gain strength for the difficult task of advocacy on behalf of God’s children.