Churches launch global campaign against poverty
A global campaign to mobilise millions of Christians in 100 countries to press their governments to halve poverty by 2015, has been launched at the United Nations by the Archbishop of Cape Town, The Most Reverend Njongonkulu Ndungane.
The Archbishop urged churches around the world to take a lead in putting pressure on governments to achieve the eight Millennium Development Goals of halving poverty, declaring: "How can we claim to follow Jesus if we are not prepared to work to achieve his gospel good news for the poor?"
Archbishop Ndungane, successor to Desmond Tutu and once a political prisoner along with Nelson Mandela on Robben Island.
Addressing an audience of church leaders from around the world, the Archbishop said: "Christians can play a vital role in helping global leaders meet their commitments. When Christians work with one another, united across nationalities and races, across rich and poor, across men, women and children, we have an enormously powerful and influential voice. We must speak loud and clear."
Micah Challenge is spearheaded by the World Evangelical Alliance, which represents three million local churches in 111 countries, and a network of 260 Christian relief and development agencies. Already national Micah Challenge campaigns are being formed in the UK, Peru, Australia, Bangladesh, Canada, India and Zambia. As a first step, Christians around the world are being asked to sign an on-line commitment & petition at www.micahchallenge.org
Describing poverty as 'evil' and the Millennium Development Goals as the most "ambitious commitment the world has ever made to combating poverty", The Archbishop said "There is no doubt that the world can afford to do all that is necessary to meet the Millennium Development Goals. But there is a large question mark against whether or not we have the will power...Governments and business can say the words, but they need all the encouragement, all the pressure, that we can give, to deliver the goods."
He added: "They need to hear that their citizens truly want them to take the hard steps that are required, so we may live in a world where there is some for all, not all for some. For it is unacceptable that in a world of surplus, 800 million people go hungry every day."
Archbishop Ndungane, who holds a portfolio for global poverty within Anglicanism, described Micah Challenge as a significant new movement through which global leaders could be challenged to play their part in 'securing a more just and merciful world.'
His comments were echoed by Salil Shetty, campaign director of the Millennium Campaign at the United Nations. He said that the only way governments would achieve the halving of poverty by 2015 would be for people to hold "their feet to the fire", and that no-one was better placed to achieve this than the churches.
Katherine Marshall, advisor to the President of the World Bank, told the church leaders at the launch that without the kind of caring and passion typical of churches, the Millennium Development Goals would not be realised.
"Poverty in the world today is an outrage, not only because of the misery it causes but because we so clearly have the means to defeat it. We as the international community are deeply convinced that full involvement of the faith communities will be central to achieving the Millennium Development Goals."
Bishop Paul Mususu, Executive Director of the Evangelical Fellowship of Zambia said many countries who had committed themselves to work towards achieving the Millennium Development Goals were doing little to raise awareness of them among their citizens. He said churches had a crucial awareness-raising role to play.
He added: "One of the biggest contributors to poverty in many countries remains the burden of international debt. For the sins of our forefathers we are being strangled day in and day out. Politicians have developed a bad reputation when it comes to international commitments. This is what is moving us to engage as churches."
Stephen Bradbury, Chair of Micah Network, concluded: "Every person on this planet is made in the image of God. Our Creator values and loves each one of us equally. Therefore injustice is a violation of God's own being.
"The Millennium Development Goals are in harmony with the Christian mandate to give justice to the weak and the orphan, maintain the rights of the destitute, rescue the weak and needy...we in the Micah Challenge will be doing all we can to encourage the world's governments to deliver on their promises."