Sojourners recently became a member of the ONE campaign, which represents a new collaborative effort to rally Americans to fight the emergency of global AIDS and extreme poverty one person, one action at a time. The campaign is planning a series of public service announcements, concerts, and other events to raise the public profile of fighting global poverty. This summer and fall provide a decisive time-frame for determining the fate of these goals.
Five years ago 189 heads of state assembled at the United Nations to discuss the crisis of global poverty. At this Millennium Summit world leaders agreed to time-bound targets for addressing extreme poverty in its many dimensions - income poverty, hunger, disease, and lack of adequate shelter - while promoting gender equality, education, and environmental sustainability. They called these targets the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). In many ways the goals represent one of the worlds best hopes for putting economic globalization on a track toward fulfilling human dignity and protecting human life by linking religious values of economic justice with good governance and accountability.
Achieving these targets will require radically new global relationships, policies, and commitments. This is true of governments as well as civil society. Only an unprecedented mobilization of civil society can generate the necessary political and social will to achieve and then surpass these goals.
Fortunately the British government is making global poverty (along with global warming) a real focus of this summers Group of Eight summit in Perthshire, Scotland, July 6 to 8. Sojourners has been working closely with Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams to co-convene a meeting at Lambeth Palace in London on the eve of the summit in order to promote a strong transatlantic religious voice in the midst of negotiations between the eight wealthiest and most powerful nations in the world.
The religious leaders will be calling on the Bush administration to work for 100-percent debt cancellation for impoverished nations. A deal will likely require a U.S. pledge of additional funds for the World Banks soft loan program and a willingness to finance deeper debt cancellation from the sale of currently undervalued IMF gold. Leaders will also be calling on President Bush to increase our nations commitment to effective foreign aid programs and to trade discussions that prioritize just policies.
Along with the G8 focus, Sojourners is working with a range of faith-based organizations to launch a summer of fasting, prayer, and advocacy around the millennium goals, culminating in a series of religious actions during the Millennium five-year review summit in New York City. World leaders will be gathering at the United Nations Sept. 14 to 16 to review progress made in reaching the MDG targets (which has been extremely uneven and is dangerously off-track in Africa and elsewhere).
Religious leaders will be surrounding the U.S. mission with prayer and fasting during the meeting, calling on the U.S. government to dramatically increase its commitment to effective foreign-assistance programs. At the end of each day we will be holding a public forum to assess and pray for progress made at the summit.
We invite people of faith to make a sojourn to New York to join us in this critical effort, or to organize events in your own city or town. (Visit www.sojo.net for information on organizing events.)
Every day 30,000 children worldwide die unnecessarily from poverty-related causes - a tragedy that has been called the "silent tsunami." This unconscionable scandal must kindle the moral imagination and stir the conscience of the American public. We are asking 30,000 people nationwide to commit to fasting with us in order to bring an end to this preventable travesty.
Supporting the development goals is not simply about advocacy, but also about personal and societal transformation. The Micah Call says it best: "This is a moment in history of unique potential, when the stated intentions of world leaders echo something of the mind of the biblical prophets and the teachings of Jesus concerning the poor, and when we have the means to dramatically reduce poverty." This call challenges the church to be the church in the world, and for all of us to build right relationships with our brothers and sisters across the globe, and in the process experience the love and grace of God.
Adam Taylor is director of campaigns and outreach at Sojourners.