As we commence a new year, we farewell two highly respected church leaders in our community; Reverend Peter Tonti, Parish Priest, Catholic Parish of Bundaberg, and The Venerable Keith Dean-Jones, Rector, Priest in Charge, Parish of Bundaberg and Archdeacon of Burnett.
Church leaders do so much more than deliver services on a Sunday. Their role as advocates for the poor, the marginalised, and the disadvantaged cannot be underestimated. Many in our community suffer the impacts of financial insecurity, homelessness, domestic violence, addiction, and other forms of hardship. Church leaders are uniquely positioned to give a voice to these issues.
They are embedded in the communities to which they minister, listen to the everyday issues of ordinary people, and show how unjust societal structures marginalise people. Through advocacy, they contribute to policy and legislative reform that positively impacts the vulnerable and the disadvantaged.
Church leaders are influencers, but not in the same context as those online influencers and digital creators with large social media followings. They can influence the creation of new laws or how government and private sector agencies provide services. They contribute to campaigns that include gender equality, ending poverty, and calling for the end of immigration detention of children.
They are involved in systemic advocacy, making long-term societal changes so that legislation, policies, and practices promote and protect vulnerable and disadvantaged people's human rights and interests.
Without the advocacy of church leaders, many voices would remain silenced.
In the words of Proverbs 31:8-9 NIV, "Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy".
We pay tribute to Father Peter and Father Keith and give thanks for their faithful service and advocacy.