Social change is a complicated and ever-going process in every society. According to Ponsioen (2019), “the study of social change … is not merely a hobby for sociologists with which to enlarge their field of knowledge, but is also an urgent necessity” (p. 14). In the United States, a number of vulnerable populations require special attention and support. Social issues lead to changes in society and promote the implementation of new policies. This paper aims to provide a final report on the development and outcomes of the Social Change Project to address the religious persecution problem.
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Synopsis of the Social Problem and Policy
Religious persecution is an acute issue that affects hundreds of millions of people worldwide. As reported by the Joint Public Issues Team (2021), it is not merely driven by differences of faith but also socio-political factors. In particular, they include governmental regulation, nationalism, the manifestations of fundamentalism, as well as social movements, groupings, and institutions (Joint Public Issues Team, 2021). The effects of religious oppression include human rights violations, emotional abuse, direct violence, and bullying. As for the origins of the problem, the issue of religious persecution can be traced back to pre-historic human groups, when heretics were oppressed on the basis of their religious beliefs, different from the majority. Nowadays, the rise of globalization and an increasing number of migrants emphasize the importance of religious freedom and imply the need for a relevant social policy.
The proposed policy is based on the principles promoting religious liberty in the United States and identified in the International Religious Freedom Act. It revolves around the idea of creating a school-based religious freedom club appealing primarily to students, as well as community members, non-profit organizations, and policy-makers. As can be seen, the policy suggests changes at a local level and aims to raise the target audience’s awareness of religious persecution and involve the youth in the dialogue. Weekly meetings and special events will be planned for fellow students and the members of marginalized communities. Additionally, experts in the fields such as human rights, religious persecution, lobbying, and politics will be invited to share their knowledge and increase the expertise of the parties involved in the project.
Barriers and Successes during Advocacy
The implementation of the proposed social policy change for religious persecution involved certain challenges during advocacy. For instance, the institutional barrier, which refers to obtaining the support of the administrative staff, had to be overcome. As a solution to this issue, clear communication was used to provide a rationale for the need for social change and explain the positive impact of a school-based religious freedom club on the community. Another obstacle was the lack of awareness of religious persecution and the stigma around certain religious groups and beliefs. As the Joint Public Issues Team (2021) reports, the religious freedom problem, “including the persecution of Christian and Muslim minorities in North Africa and the Middle East,” continues to gain media coverage. However, minorities still face legal and social discrimination, as well as public criticism, which aggravates the situation.
At the same time, the social project for the religious persecution program is characterized by success in terms of educating the parties of interest on religious liberty. A school-based religious freedom club promotes essential ethical principles by raising students’ and staff’s competency and emphasizing a fair approach to every individual regardless of their religious beliefs (Abdulla, 2018). As stated by Jurns (2019), policy advocacy is an evidence-based means of making a positive impact on the population. Freedom of belief is considered one of the fundamental human rights, and the experience with the proposed project shows that advocating for the proposed policy for religious persecution contributes to promoting tolerance in society.
Accomplishments and Changes Made Throughout the Social Change Project
The social change project involved several stages, during which the following aspects were identified: action to effect change, plan for social advocacy, policy evaluation, and a policy alternative. It was established that the main stakeholders are the student body, teachers, local authorities, as well as the media. Furthermore, the format for the proposed religious freedom club was identified, including discussions, cultural events such as movie watch and musical venues, and lectures by qualified specialists in various related fields. The major challenges were defined, namely, the lack of awareness of and knowledge about the issues of religious persecution and the need for effective policy advocacy instruments. Finally, a policy alternative was proposed in case of limited funding options or the inability to provide the statistical support sufficient to have the board’s approval and support. It suggests changes at a local level and involves implementing training on religious freedom for students and school staff.
Creating a social change project addressing the problem of religious persecution provided me with an opportunity to improve my advocacy, communication, and organizational skills, as well as critical thinking and professional commitment. According to Scourfield (2021), these skills are crucial for social workers to effectively use advocacy. Moreover, I learned more about the causes and outcomes of religious oppression. The consequences for society highlight the need for social change, and developing a project to address the issue allowed me to improve my cultural competence and apply it to support marginalized groups. Looking back at my experience, I would research more on the most recent strategies in advocacy and changes in legislation to ensure that the proposed policy is implemented according to them.
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Policy in Practice
The policy proposed relates to direct practice since it applies advocacy instruments to make social change and improve the community. In particular, it uses planning in advocacy practice, which suggests the following steps: describing the project’s agenda, identifying the target audience and the main stakeholders, presenting the information and working with the media (Hoefer, 2019). Furthermore, it uses social media during the advocacy campaign as an effective tool to disseminate information and engage even a wider audience. An on-site survey was conducted to determine the interest expressed by actual students to participate in the project related to the issue of religious liberty. As a result, statistical support was collected to advocate for the proposed policy and obtain the board’s approval.
Advocacy Skills of a Social Worker
The skills gained and improved during this social change project can be implemented in my social work practice. In particular, the steps involved in the policy development and creating and operating of the club include assembling a team, promoting the project offline and on social media, and developing a quarterly plan. Besides, it is necessary to invite the experts to participate in the events and raise students’ awareness of religious persecution, as well as search for possible organizations to collaborate with. As a result, advocacy skills such as communication, organization, critical thinking, empathy, cultural competence, and professional commitment can be used in my future social work practice.
To conclude, social policies are an integral part of every society aiming to promote positive changes and benefit the population. The proposed policy suggests creating a school-based religious freedom club appealing primarily to students, as well as community members, non-profit organizations, and policy-makers. The final report comprises an overview of the social problem and project, including the barriers to its implementation and the major accomplishments.
Ponsioen, J. A. (2019). The analysis of social change is reconsidered. De Gruyter Mouton.
Jurns, C. (2019). Policy advocacy motivators and barriers: Research results and applications. OJIN: The Online Journal of Issues in Nursing, 24(3), 746-753. doi:10.3912/OJIN.Vol24No03PPT63
Joint Public Issues Team. (2021). Religious persecution.
Abdulla, M. R. (2018). Culture, religion, and freedom of religion or belief. The Review of Faith & International Affairs, 16(4), 102-115. doi:10.1080/15570274.2018.1535033
Scourfield, P. (2021). Using advocacy in social work practice: A guide for students and professionals. Routledge.
Hoefer, R. (2019). Advocacy practice for social justice (4th ed.). Oxford University Press.