Janet Epp Buckingham is the director of global advocacy at the World Evangelical Alliance (WEA). She is using her professional platform to speak up for Christians from around the world and highlights why advocacy is so crucial to the religious freedom of our brothers and sisters across the globe and what we can do to help.

What does the WEA do?

The World Evangelical Alliance began in 1846 with the establishment in England of the Evangelical Alliance, formed with representatives from England, Scotland, Ireland, Wales, Sweden, Germany, France, Holland, Switzerland, the USA and Canada. From the beginning, they addressed social justice issues, including slavery, racism, child labour and freedom of religion. They also had a strong focus on evangelism. Today, the WEA gives identity, voice and a platform to national alliances in over 140 countries around the world.

What is your role?


My role is oversight and strategic direction for the WEA UN offices and the International Institute for Religious Freedom. My expertise is in religious freedom, but I also have a history of advocacy on other issues as I was an advocate with the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada for seven years.

WEA delegation at the conference

Why is it important for evangelicals to engage in advocacy?

Evangelicals serve in many ways in society. We have ministries to the poor, the sick, refugees, victims of abuse, those with addictions and those in prison. Those engaged in these ministries can also engage in advocacy from their first-hand experience. Again, this is another way to participate in the common good.

What inspires you to speak up for people you’ve never met?

I am very motivated to make the world a better place. In Proverbs 31:8 – 9, God calls us to be a voice for the voiceless. So many people around the world are vulnerable and oppressed and have no voice. In my role with the WEA, I can give them a voice to help improve their lives. This can be on an individual or systemic basis.

You are surrounded by academics and scholars and policymakers; how do you apply a biblical approach to the change you are advocating for?

That is such a great question! The Bible is full of instruction on how to live our lives, care for our neighbours and engage with government but it is sometimes hard to understand how to apply it, especially in public policy. I have long applied Christopher Wright’s whole Bible approach. This requires examining all parts of the Bible, from Genesis to Revelation, to find the principles we can apply to a particular issue.

"In Proverbs 31:8-9, God calls us to be a voice for the voiceless. So many people around the world are vulnerable and oppressed and have no voice."

Consider the issue of refugees, for example. As early in the Bible as Exodus 22, God commands the Israelites not to mistreat or oppress foreigners for you were foreigners in Egypt” (Exodus 22:21). In Matthew’s genealogy of Jesus, we see several foreigners in Jesus’ lineage, and we can read their stories in the Old Testament. Joseph and Mary had to flee to Egypt as refugees with Jesus soon after His birth. Then God shows Peter and Paul that Jesus came for Gentiles as well as Jews, opening up salvation to everyone, including refugees.

While the Bible does not use the term refugee”, there is clear instruction about treating them well. The biblical principles are not just for Christians and churches but can also apply to nations as part of public policy.

Can you suggest three ways in which we can individually serve our neighbours, that are free and readily available to us all?

1. Refugees have many needs, from practical – housing, furniture and food – to needs for friends and community. They often need language classes. Some need trauma counselling. We can’t meet all their needs but we can be a friend and have conversations to help them learn the language.

2. Coming out of Covid lockdowns, many people in our neighbourhoods are lonely. They may have lost loved ones. They may be fearful after government messages about the pandemic. It may be a good time to reach out to your immediate neighbours that live nearby. Invite them for a cup of tea in the garden, if you have one, or maybe meet up in a local park.

3. Schools often have volunteers, particularly to help children who are struggling to learn. Check with your local school to see if they need volunteers to help students read or if they have students who are learning English, who need practice speaking it.

"Check with your local school to see if they need volunteers to help students read or if they have students who are learning English, who need practice speaking it."

Where in the world have you seen examples of the church loving their neighbours? What stories can you share to encourage us in the UK to speak up and serve those around us and further afield?

The recent example of how Poland opened its homes and communities to refugees from Ukraine is an amazing example of loving our neighbours. While it was not just churches that helped these refugees, the church community played a significant role in providing housing, food and clothing for Ukrainians. I was amazed to see Christians opening their homes to strangers. Christians in other European countries also helped Ukrainian refugees in a very open-handed way.

How can we pray for you and the work you’re involved in?

Please pray for favour for our advocacy at the United Nations. Evangelicals are not always seen in a positive light. Much of our advocacy happens at the diplomatic level, so pray for open doors and positive relationships.

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We also advocate for those facing some of the most challenging issues such as religious persecution, human trafficking and refugees. Pray that God will give us strength and courage to persevere in our advocacy when it seems discouraging.