The anti-poverty coalition Micah Challenge has called on Britain’s new prime minister to take a stand to stamp out global poverty.
Former Chancellor Gordon Brown takes over today as 52nd prime minister of the United Kingdom. His predecessor, Tony Blair, recently pledged “complete support” for aims of the Micah Challenge to hold governments accountable for cutting poverty in half by 2015, and leaders of the Micah Challenge are now calling on Brown to do the same.
“Gordon Brown has a great track record for getting the British Government and the international community to honor the promises they have made to the world’s poorest people,” Andy Clasper, executive director of Micah Challenge UK, said in a statement. “Now Micah Challenge is challenging him to keep up the good work and make a positive difference to the world’s poor during his time as prime minister.”
Brown, the son of a Church of Scotland minister, has been a strong supporter of keeping the Millennium Development Goals set by world leaders in 2000 to reduce poverty. Newcastle University gave him an honorary doctorate in recognition of work he did for the Make Poverty History campaign two years ago.
“I believe that ours can be the generation that builds that virtuous circle, where debt reduction is followed by poverty reduction and by sustainable development,” Brown said at an anti-poverty rally in 2000. “Ours can become the generation that realizes … the ancient text of Isaiah that the oppressed go free…. That is our task, the challenge to all of us working together.”
American evangelical social activist Jim Wallis, speaking at a conference in the UK, said Christians and other people of goodwill must help Brown to keep his promises.
“Gordon Brown has a moral compass on poverty that I haven’t seen in many heads of state,” Wallis said at a “Jesus In The City” urban missions congress at Kensington Baptist Church in Bristol. “But even the best ones can’t change the big things unless there’s a social movement.”
There are now 32 national Micah Challenge campaigns worldwide, including six of the eight G8 countries. Baptists in the UK and Australia are at the forefront of the global campaign, which is endorsed by the Baptist World Alliance.
In May the Micah Challenge kicked off its “Blow the Whistle” campaign marking the halfway point of commitments made by governments at the UN millennium summit in 2000 to halve world poverty by 2015.
“While progress has been made in many areas, there is still an awful lot more to do if we’re going to achieve the targets we set back in 2000,” Clasper said. “It’s time for our leaders to take bold action if we’re going to keep our promises to the poor.”
Churches blew “halftime whistles” during worship services as a symbolic reminder to government leaders that time is running out. The Micah Challenge “halftime period” of intensive prayer and advocacy culminates July 7, when communities will “kick off” the second half in media events worldwide.
Bob Allen is managing editor of EthicsDaily.com.