A global campaign is attempting to mobilize evangelical Christians in support of goals to reduce world poverty by half during the next 11 years.
Scheduled for global launch in October at the United Nations headquarters in New York, the Micah Challenge aims to recruit Christians in advocacy for the poor and to hold national leaders accountable for meeting anti-poverty goals.
“We commit ourselves, as followers of Jesus, to work together for the holistic transformation of our communities, to pursue justice, be passionate about kindness and to walk humbly with God,” according to the “Micah Call,” an online petition being used for recruitment.
The statement also calls on international and national decision-makers to fulfill their public promise to achieve the Millennium Development Goals established by the world’s heads of state. It urges Christians, meanwhile, “to be agents of hope for and with the poor” and to hold their leaders accountable for securing a more just and merciful world.
“Regardless of their political ideology or religious persuasion, all governments are accountable to God for their performance in delivering policies that respond effectively to the needs of poor and oppressed communities,” Micah Challenge co-chair Steve Bradbury said in an article on the group’s Web site.
The campaign borrows its name from Micah 6:8, a verse that describes God’s requirement for justice and mercy and to “walk humbly with God.” It also appeals to teachings of Jesus about the poor.
An “inward” goal of the program is to call Christians to “deepen their commitment to work with and for poor communities.” A second, outward, goal involves providing “an opportunity for Christians to influence national and international decision-makers to reduce global poverty.”
While programs aimed at reducing poverty come and go, organizers believe the current generation has the greatest potential yet to utilize resources, knowledge, technology and communications now available.
They also cite unprecedented recognition by world leaders that poverty is an international problem. The emphasis centers on Millennium Development Goals, approved by all 191 member states of the United Nations addressing poverty, education and disease.
Micah Challenge describes the goals as “achievable, but not by business as usual.” Their strength, they say, is that they are measurable and assign a timeline of reducing global poverty by half by 2015.
These are the goals:
— Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger, by cutting in half the proportion of people who suffer from hunger and live on less than one dollar a day.
–Achieve universal primary education, ensuring that boys and girls alike have access to school.
–Promote gender equality and empower women, by improving female education, employment and leadership opportunities.
–Reduce child mortality, including immunization against measles.
–Improve maternal health, by increasing the numbers of births attended by skilled health personnel.
–Combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases, halting and beginning to reverse their spread by 2015.
–Ensure environmental sustainability, by building principles of sustainable development into government polices and programs, increasing access to safe drinking water and improving the lives of at least 100 million slum dwellers.
–Develop a global partnership for development, including reduction of national debt.
The Micah Challenge was launched in Peru during the Micah Network conference on children at risk Aug. 3-7. National campaigns are also underway in Australia, Canada, France, India, the United Kingdom and Switzerland.
The official global launch is scheduled Oct. 15 in New York City in conjunction with the U.N. ceremony observing the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty.
“In the meantime we are trying to create a truly North-South momentum,” Michael Smitheram, a Baptist from Australia recently named international coordinator for Micah Challenge. The U.N. launch is “symbolic of that” and will be “largely global facing,” he said.
Eleven national campaigns are scheduled for launch in 2004, with an additional 15 in 2005 and 2006. The first annual global Micah Challenge Sunday is scheduled in 2005.
The Micah Challenge is a joint project of the Micah Network and the World Evangelical Alliance. The Micah Network brings together more than 270 Christian organizations providing relief, development and justice ministries throughout the world. The World Evangelical Alliance, founded in 1951, embraces about 3 million local churches in 111 countries.
Bob Allen is managing editor of EthicsDaily.com.