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09 April 2010

Charlie Ager - CARE Leadership Programme

Charlie Ager - CARE Leadership Programme

Charlie Ager is currently involved in the Leadership Programme run by CARE and as part of this is volunteering for a Labour MSP at the Scottish Parliament. She graduated from St Andrews in International Relations with a particular focus on human rights, human trafficking and African politics.  

Charlie has just signed up for her first half marathon and is currently tending to a small plot of lettuces that she has a slightly alarming maternal attachment to!

As a child what did you want to be when you grew up?

As with most children my future career plan changed as often as my 'best' friend. I think I went through the predictable motions of teacher and doctor, to hair dresser and pop star.

How did you get involved in the CARE Leadership Programme?

I interned for the Christian human rights organisation International Justice Mission in my penultimate summer at university. Part of my remit was to raise awareness among parliamentarians of the issues of trafficking of women and children, land rights exploitation, and to highlight what they could do within parliament. I met with parliamentary officers to get advice on the best way to engage, one of who worked for CARE.

What is the most significant thing you've learnt on the Leadership Programme? 

Much to my disappointment I have come to realise there are no easy answers to the big questions of life, death and everything in between and beyond. I long for black and white but find that living by the principles God has laid down compels us to grapple with the real-life situations we face and do so with humility. I had perhaps naively hoped that by the end of this year I would have it sussed. Instead as we dig deeper into the Bible, share experiences and have 'lively' discussions, more questions emerge. I'm coming to realise there's some liberation in the unknown and the incomplete that fosters a child-like faith in our Father God.

What do you do to relax?

Too much. I'm an active rester. I unwind by going on runs and bike rides, tending to my lovely vegetable patch…have I mentioned how precious my wee lettuces are!?

What has been your biggest disappointment?

Compromise; when I've not stood up for the principles I believe in and have ended up selling myself, others and God short.

What Christian story or biblical text motivates you in your engagement with the world of politics? 

The Old Testament prophets were so in touch with God and weren't afraid to speak truth to power. They spoke up for the oppressed and vulnerable and convicted God's people for the part they'd played in the injustices of the day. The voice that represents the widow, the orphan, the socially marginalised needs to be spoken to those in power today. Honestly I am still struggling to figure out, however, if in order to have that voice heard in the world of power politics you need to be part of that system (like Daniel or Esther) or outside of it (like Jesus). Answers on a postcard please.

Martin Luther King Jr had a dream for society. What is yours?

There's a great Bantu word 'Ubuntu' which essentially means 'active togetherness.' I see that ethos paralled in the gospel and the calling of the church to be a generous, community-building body that affirms the value of each person and the gifts that they bring to the whole, accepting the complications of relationships and the restoration that grace brings. My dream is to see and participate in the church being such a prophetic heuristic of the Word made flesh, that people would see and feel the impact of God's transforming kingdom of grace, love and peace come here on earth as it is in heaven.

What is the main hindrance to living the dream?

We're not well practiced at living well together. We're either fairly ego-centric and don't see the need to live well amongst each other and with God or don't recognise our own value and so isolate ourselves from the outstretched arms of those seeking to include us.

Who is your favourite politician in the Bible?

I find the story of Queen Esther a really interesting one particularly as she was a female Jew coming to power in exile and in the midst of a largely male-oriented power narrative.  As a leader she recognised the call to be humble to God's purpose and was willing to sacrifice it all for what she believed in and to stand up for her people in the threat of their annihilation. It is her character of integrity, wisdom and courage that really stands out for me as an amazing lesson of a Godly leader and a woman who uses her position of power and influence for good to speak up for the voiceless. Politicians like that today would be pretty revolutionary.

Are the Millennium Development Goals just 'a bridge too far'?

The principles at the heart of the MDG's are built on kingdom foundations; seeking justice for the poor and the oppressed and promoting the common good. While we do recognise that such justice will not be fulfilled in full until Christ returns, in the mean time we acknowledge that God's Kingdom is breaking in. Promoting transparency and accountability of governments and state programmes is essential as it is onto this framework that all the initiatives of the MDG's will be grafted. And if we really want to see long-term, sustainable, societal change that brings justice to the poor and the vulnerable the hard work of getting the system 'right' needs to be invested in.  However strengthening state capacity to meet the needs of its citizens is a really important aspect and an area that the co-signatories of the MDG's have perhaps omitted to address.

What does your 'dream job' look like?

I'd love to be a farmer; I love early mornings, being in the great outdoors and having a sense of providing for people's basic needs. I think we're totally wired for grace-filled community, and sharing (home-grown) food together is magic for building that.

More realistically though my 'dream job' would include working in development, ideally somewhere on the African continent, serving and learning from the poor at a grass roots level while simultaneously transforming the unjust global systems of the world at a policy level! Perhaps a tall order; glad I'm not in this seeking justice thing alone!