Bishops to march against poverty during Lambeth conference

By Agencies
May 29, 2008

The Archbishop of Canterbury has announced plans to mount an unprecedented mass walk of bishops and other faith leaders through central London during the forthcoming Lambeth Conference to demonstrate the Anglican Communion's determination to help end extreme poverty across the globe.

Rowan Williams will be joined by approximately 600 other archbishops and bishops, and their spouses, alongside other UK faith leaders for the high-profile symbol of commitment to the United Nations' Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) - eight promises made by world leaders to halve world poverty by 2015.

The event will culminate in a rally in the grounds of Lambeth Palace, the London home and office of the Archbishop of Canterbury.

The event is being organised in partnership with Micah Challenge UK, part of the international Micah Challenge movement dedicated to uniting Christians to work together for an end to world poverty.

The bishops will walk through the heart of the capital, including Parliament Square, in a vivid demonstration of the diversity of the Anglican Communion and a witness to the work already being conducted by Churches and other faith groups to work towards the MDGs - and a public pledge to work even harder to make sure they are delivered.

The faith leaders will also commit to putting more pressure on their respective governments to ensure that funding promises are met, and the right policies put in place, to make a real difference to local communities across the world.

On arrival at Lambeth Palace, the bishops and other guests will gather to hear brief addresses from special guests, led by the Archbishop of Canterbury, and likely to include the Anglican Communion's Observer at the UN, Hellen Wangusa.

The announcement of this walk is being released to coincide with a meeting of faith leaders and heads of faith-based development agencies, who met at Lambeth Palace today (29th May).

The group discussed how faith groups can ensure that governments honour their spending commitments towards the UN targets and make policy decisions in their support. The UN targets include providing universal primary education, tackling issues such as maternal health, and reducing child mortality.

The UN's most recent official update on progress towards the MDGs showed that while achievement of some of the targets has been made, the goals in areas such as education and maternal mortality are decades behind schedule in many countries.

Announcing the walk, the Archbishop of Canterbury said: "Faith leaders and our communities are active across the UK and the world as advocates for the poor and vulnerable in our midst. Faith groups often have the best service delivery networks in the very places which the international agencies find hardest to reach."

"This walk will be a poignant public act of commitment by the Anglican Communion and other faith groups to continue to put pressure on those who have the power and resources to help end extreme poverty across the globe. It will be about pledging, as a Church, to play our part in continuing to develop lasting solutions. It will also be a walk where we will be in step with those who know at first hand the impact that the unfair distribution of the world's resources can have on daily living and life opportunities."

In addition to the organisational partnership with Micah Challenge UK, faith based mission and development agencies attending today's meeting lent their support to the walk, together with the UK's Department for International Development (DFID).

UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown and DFID have already joined the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon in recognising 2008 as a critical year to renew efforts to achieve the MDGs. The Prime Minister launched the 'Millennium Development Goals Call to Action' in July 2006 which seeks better partnerships between faith communities, private sector and governments to help deliver the MDGs.

Dr Indarjit Singh OBE, Director of the Network of Sikh Organisations (UK), is among faith leaders welcoming the event: "Sikhs support a wide range of initiatives to raise awareness about the Millennium Development Goals, and we are delighted that the Archbishop and the Anglican Church are taking the lead in the important area of education which this walk will highlight. I hope to join it."

The July event will form part of the international backdrop for the UN meeting on 25th September, when the UN Secretary General is hosting a special review on progress towards the goals and the financial commitments from donor countries.

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