Ask recent Samford graduate Natalie McIntyre what she’s doing next week, and she might say, “I’m going to the G8.”
It would be the truth.
McIntyre, who graduated in May with a bachelor’s in political science, is one of a handful of American delegates who leave this weekend for Edinburgh, Scotland, where they will join other global citizens establishing a presence at the G8 Summit in nearby Gleneagles July 6-8.
The G8 Summit brings leaders from the world’s wealthiest nations together to determine strategies for meeting global priorities. G8 stands for “Group of Eight” nations, which are the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Canada and Russia. The European Union also seats a representative.
The G8 presidency rotates, and this year it belongs to the United Kingdom. Prime Minister Tony Blair has prioritized two issues: climate change and Africa’s health and poverty crises.
The latter has galvanized aid organizations across the globe. In the United States, the ONE Campaign has brought together dozens of organizations like DATA (Debt, AIDS, Trade Africa), Heifer and Bread for the World. The ONE Campaign hopes to persuade President Bush and other G8 leaders to make sweeping changes benefiting the world’s poorest continent.
Such changes include debt reduction or elimination and aid increases to help fight poverty and AIDS.
When a chartered Virgin Atlantic airliner departs New York’s JFK airport Sunday evening, it will be carrying about 50 reporters and 100 American delegates.
McIntyre is one of them, as are two Belmont students, Danica Mercer and Matt Ward.
Katherine Pace, DATA’s Nashville-based southeast field organizer who is also going to the G8, had a hand in choosing Mercer and Ward.
“She’s very committed to these issues,” Pace said of Mercer. “On her campus, she’s hosted events and been in places of leadership to facilitate more discussion.”
Pace said motivated college students like Mercer and Ward were important and would be instrumental in helping keep the issues alive when the G8 Summit ends.
“We’re taking people we believe can come back and engage the community and lead the community on these issues,” Pace, a Nashville native, told EthicsDaily.com on the phone.
“Our focus will shift from the G8 to the U.N. Summit,” she said, referring to a September meeting in which the United Nations will evaluate progress toward its Millennium Development Goals, which include eradicating extreme poverty by 2015.
“We’ve got a lot of work to do,” said Pace, “so we won’t stop.”
“We live really comfortable lives here,” she said, “and we don’t want to think about the fact that there are children without families and there are people dying for stupid reasons, really.”
“I don’t know how they arrived at that list” of delegates, McIntyre told EthicsDaily.com on the phone from Birmingham, but she’s happy her name popped up.
Actually, her activism also accounted for her invitation.
She’s been volunteering with Bread for the World the last two years, and even started a chapter on Samford’s campus. McIntyre oversaw letter-writing campaigns, hosted a large BFW event on campus, and worked to educate other Samford students on hunger issues.
A “Hope for Hunger” campaign, in which students gave up a meal in the cafeteria, raised $1,000 for BFW.
“I saw a growing number of students becoming interested in international issues,” she said. “This year I really felt like it was world issues and hunger.”
Celebrities are doing their part to keep those issues in front of the public. The ONE Campaign is being fronted by the biggest of the big: Brad Pitt, Tom Hanks, Al Pacino and many more.
U2 frontman Bono, who co-founded DATA, has worked tirelessly for Africa, where AIDS claims 6,500 lives each day.
Bono and other musicians are taking part in Live8 concerts around the world Saturday, July 2. Top musicians will play and, more importantly, highlight the African crisis, in eight venues. In Philadelphia, where McIntyre and other delegates will gather prior to leaving the States, attendees will hear Bon Jovi, Dave Matthews Band and The Rolling Stones, to name just a few.
Before leaving Philadelphia for New York on Sunday, delegates will also receive media training. During the summit itself, delegates will receive instruction in global activism, attend discussion groups and a “Long Walk to Justice” concert, and join with other campaigners in making citizens’ presence felt as G8 leaders convene.
A Biblical Call
McIntyre, a member of Birmingham’s Baptist Church of the Covenant, said her Christian faith is a big reason for her activism regarding social justice, poverty and hunger.
“I feel like it’s throughout the Scriptures,” she said of the mandate.
McIntyre cited Matthew 25, in which Jesus says that “whatever you did for the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me,” and Acts 4, which describes how believers shared their resources and “no one claimed that any of his possessions was his own.”
“You are supposed to be communal,” said McIntyre, adding that televangelists who preach a prosperity doctrine are “missing the point.”
“We’re brothers and sisters in Christ with people in the Sudan,” she said. “There needs to be some equality.”
“I’m convinced that whatever skills God has given me, whatever intellect, I want to use that to help other people,” said McIntyre. “I don’t want to waste it.”
And she isn’t. McIntyre begins studying international development at the University of Denver this fall.
“This is a lifelong commitment for me,” said McIntyre, just days before that commitment takes her to a world stage.
Cliff Vaughn is culture editor for EthicsDaily.com.
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