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Monica Doumit: The future of Christian advocacy is bright, if you know where to look

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Twenty or so young lawyers and law students, aged 18 to 25, used their university holidays or annual leave to commit to high-energy, 12-hour days, packed with presentations from leading academics and lawyers that would have challenged them much more than any of their university classes.” Photo: Pexels.com
Twenty or so young lawyers and law students, aged 18 to 25, used their university holidays or annual leave to commit to high-energy, 12-hour days, packed with presentations from leading academics and lawyers that would have challenged them much more than any of their university classes.” Photo: Pexels.com

Often in this column, I offer an apocalyptic vision of the years and decades ahead. In the decade or I have been writing for the Catholic Weekly, I don’t think I’ve ever been accused of wearing rose-coloured glasses.

But I needed glasses of some sort this past week, as I had the privilege of attending and speaking at the Human Rights Law Alliance Legal Academy and, from where I stood, the future looked very bright indeed.

The academy is a week-long, residential intensive course held in beautiful Murrumbateman and is aimed at equipping law students and junior lawyers with the tools they need to be committed Christians operating in the secular, legal profession. It also introduces them to a range of religious freedom clients who HRLA has represented and case studies on which HRLA has worked in the hope that they see the importance of advocating for religious freedom as lawyers.

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Twenty or so young lawyers and law students, aged 18 to 25, used their university holidays or annual leave to commit to high-energy, 12-hour days, packed with presentations from leading academics and lawyers that would have challenged them much more than any of their university classes.

The days included lectures on everything from a Biblical understanding of justice to gender critical theory. Given where Australia’s current legal and political climate is headed, there was a significant focus on religious discrimination laws, conversion therapy bans and hate speech. They heard from leading experts in the pro-life movement and also from those who had to fight for their freedoms to be upheld and spent almost a full day on what it means to be a Christian lawyer. I used my session to give them some tips on dealing with the media and using communications as a form of legal advocacy.

It wasn’t all business, though, as there was plenty of time for allocated for prayer and reflection, as well as a taste of the region’s amazing food and wine. I didn’t get to stay the whole week, unfortunately, but the time I did spend at the Academy was enough to fill me with joy, and gave me many reasons to be hopeful for the future.

We can be tempted to think that the fights ahead of us are too big, and that we will be overwhelmed by the anti-religious, progressive left, woke culture that is trying to drive people of faith, particularly Christians, out of the public square. But this week gave me hope that whatever they might throw against us is no match for the intelligence, deep faith and dedication of John Steenhof and his team at HRLA and so many others like them who spend their days elbow deep in the culture wars, fighting the good fight.

The young people there for the week showed that it is possible to resist the indoctrination being thrown at them from every angle. They are able not only to seek and find the truth, but also to respond to a calling to use their God-given skills to defend it. These kids were bright and thoughtful and seemed to really enjoy the content. They too are a sign of hope that God continues to raise up leaders who are willing to speak the truth publicly to ensure everyone has the opportunity to hear the Gospel.

When I was a young law student, I recall trying to discern what God wanted me to do with my legal training. I remember very clearly thinking that he must be calling me to use what I had learned to defend the truth. I would have loved to have something like this when I was studying law, but nothing like it existed 20 years ago. That’s another reason being at the academy gave me hope: we are making the next generation aware of the challenges that lie ahead, and are offering them the tools and training and connections they will need to meet them. This generation of young people will be more equipped than we were, and please God, their efforts will bear great fruit.

The course will run again in 2024. Law students or young lawyers who are interested in attending should keep an eye out at hrla.org.au

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