Commentary: Now’s the time to end extreme poverty
Bishop Peter D. Weaver
July 11, 2005
A UMNS Commentary
By Bishop Peter D. Weaver*
Following the Group of Eight leaders’
meeting in Scotland, one fact is clear: The world is in a position to
end extreme poverty in this generation. The technology, resources and
cooperative networks are in place to get it done.
No longer does a child need to die every
three seconds of preventable causes. No longer do more than one billion
people need to live with little or no food, education or health care. No
longer do the poor need to become poorer because of trade
Jesus’ vision of good news for the poor
and the human family is within sight. This was the first objective for
his spirit-anointed ministry, according to Luke 4:18.
The United Methodist Church is playing a
role in the expanding movement aimed at ending poverty. Before the G8
summit opened, I was part of a broad-based, 11-member U.S. delegation
that met in London with about 40 religious leaders from Africa and Great
Britain. The group was called together by Archbishop of Canterbury
This show of solidarity for the poor
demonstrated our unity as Christians and challenged the world’s leaders
to take bold steps to grant debt relief, increase aid and develop just
trade policies in developing countries.
Before leaving for the United Kingdom,
our delegation met with the senior White House staff members responsible
for G8 summit preparations. We affirmed the positive steps the Bush
administration has taken and urged the president to take additional,
critically needed — and bold — steps. It was also clear that Congress
must be encouraged to give full funding for undertakings such as the
Millennium Development Goals. These goals are established by world
leaders to combat poverty, hunger, disease, illiteracy and other
In London, we met with Gordon Brown,
chancellor of the exchequer (the British secretary of the treasury). He
is urging U.S. churches to help create the moral and political will to
fulfill the goals that have been set, such as dedicating .07 percent of
the gross domestic product to eliminating poverty. He spoke passionately
about meeting a man with AIDS in Tanzania, who said to him, “Are we not
In all of the financial complexity, the
central question is “how we will live together as sisters and brothers,
justly and compassionately, sharing the resources that God has entrusted
to the human family so that, in partnership, all may be empowered and
Our second major meeting was a
consultation of about 50 African, British and U.S. representatives
convened by the archbishop of Canterbury to discuss the major issues of
the G8 summit from a theological perspective, to craft a statement to
the G8 summit leaders and to plan next steps in an international faith
community effort to end extreme poverty. As Archbishop Rowan said, “The
poverty of one is the poverty of all.” It was also noted that most
Christians around the world are themselves poor.
This emerging movement of a broad global
and ecumenical commitment to end extreme poverty reminds me of the
historic 1910 Edinburgh Missionary Conference that launched the 20th
Century Missions Movement, bringing together a wide diversity of
Christians for the “evangelism of the world in this generation.” Part of
the 21st century evangel, or “good news,” for the poor for whom Christ
came were in evidence at Edinburgh during the G8 summit. Christian
perspectives from the global south as well as in the wealthy nations
were critical to these meetings. God’s transforming Spirit is at
By God’s grace, some amazing things are
emerging and converging in this moment of our history. Consider these
- Jeffrey Sachs’ best selling book, The End of Poverty.
- Growing grass-roots movements such as “Make Poverty History” and the “ONE” campaign.
- The commitment of diverse leaders such as Nelson Mandela, Bono, George Bush, Desmond
- Tutu, Tony Blair and Bill Gates all working to end extreme poverty.
- Recent agreement on 100 percent debt relief for 18 of the poorest nations.
- The European Union’s goal of doubling
its aid to the poorest nations by $25 billion, achieving a .07 percent
of their GDP aid contribution by 2010.
- The July 7 announcement by President Bush of $1.2 billion to address malaria and other problems in Africa.
Yes, God is moving forward. United Methodists can join the movement to make poverty history. Here are some ways:
- Pray for our churches and the leaders of all nations as we work together to end extreme poverty.
- Participate in your congregation’s “Children and Poverty” and “Hope for the Children of Africa” efforts.
- Connect with the “ONE” campaign.
- Keep yourself and your
congregation informed about the Millennium Development Goals, global
debt relief, aid to poor nations, just trade policies, global health
issues, education issues, and children’s and women’s issues.
- Communicate your concerns and encouragement to President Bush and Congress.
More information on the G8 summit can be found at www.g8.gov.uk. Additional information on the meeting of religious leaders in London is at www.archbishopofcanterbury.org. You can learn more about the ONE Campaign at www.one.org.
*Weaver is president of the United Methodist Council of Bishops and leader of the United Methodist Church’s Boston Area.
News media contact: Tim Tanton, Nashville, Tenn., (615) 742-5470 or email@example.com.
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