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Hunger no More

This is a critical year for Canadian Christians to address global hunger. With both the G-8 summit in July and the U.N. Millennium meeting in September we have a real opportunity to make an impact.


It was an unprecedented gathering. 1500 people of various religious affiliations joined leaders of more than 40 faith communities for an interfaith convocation at Washington National Cathedral, June 6, 2005, united in a common conviction that no one should go hungry.

Hunger no More
Archbishop Mjongonkulu
Ndungane

Hosted by the Episcopal Diocese of Washington, D.C., the event formed part of the One Table, Many Voices conference, a mobilization organized by two advocacy groups, Bread for the World and Call to Renewal, to highlight issues of US domestic and international hunger and to call on President Bush and the United States Congress to commit to eradicating poverty worldwide.

Representing the World Evangelical Alliance at this unique event, I noted with interest the significant number of Evangelicals actively participating, including the National Association of Evangelicals, Christian Reformed Church, Evangelical Covenant Church and the Southern Baptists.

Archbishop Njongonkulu Ndungane of Cape Town (He replaced Desmond Tutu) the primary speaker, explained that 852 million people face hunger every day and that, even in a wealthy nation such as the United States, there are 36 million people who are "food insecure," almost 13 million of whom are children.

"Hunger in the U.S. has been on the rise for the last four years," Ndungane reported. "Yet with such need, proposals in the current budget debate to cut [federal government nutrition] programs and deprive hundreds of thousands of working families of food support, cannot be justified, and must be opposed," he added.

Ndungane went on to say, "I have seen the face of poverty in the eyes of far too many men, women, children, the elderly, people with disability," he said. "Their message was 'Archbishop, take our voices to the corridors of power, and say for us, "We do not want hand-outs; we have brains; we have hands; give us the capacity to eke out our own existence.'"

There is a growing sense that this year is a critical year for us to face global hunger. With both the G-8 summit in July and the U.N. Millennium meeting with heads of state in September there is a real opportunity to make an impact.

Archbishop Ndungane highlighted the Micah Challenge, the global Christian campaign focused on the Millenium Development Goals. Rooted in the World Evangelical Alliance globally and supported in Canada by the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada and other national Christian networks, the campaign is calling on Christians to deepen their commitment to the poor and hold governments accountable for the commitments they have made to reducing global poverty. Micah Challenge is also a part of providing leadership for the more broad-based civil society campaign, Make Poverty History.

For me it is so encouraging that Evangelicals are stepping up in new ways to address some of the major global crisis, such as poverty and the AIDS pandemic. This new level of engagement is not going unnoticed both within the broader church community and the media.

Recently, New York Times columnist wrote the following as a part of his editorial:

"And when I look at the Evangelical community, I see a community in the midst of a transformation—branching out beyond the traditional issues of abortion and gay marriage, and getting more involved in programs to help the needy. I see Rick Warren, who through his new Peace initiative is sending thousands of people to Rwanda and other African nations to fight poverty and disease. I see Chuck Colson deeply involved in Sudan. I see Richard Cizik of the National Association of Evangelicals drawing up a service agenda that goes way beyond the normal turf of Christian conservatives."

While it is a good sign that Evangelicals in the USA are engaging the Church and its government policy makers in new ways, we in Canada must continue to do the same.

With this goal in mind, Micah Challenge Canada recently sent an open letter to the Prime Minister and the leaders of all the other parties. In part this letter read,

"Micah Challenge Canadacalls on the government to take substantial action in three areas, including the delivery of more and better aid, making poverty reduction the exclusive goal of Canadian aid, working for trade rules that benefit the poor, and debt cancellation. Debt cancellation is of strategic importance as momentum gathers in the lead-up to this July's G-8 meetings. According to Micah Challenge Canada, Canada is a natural leader for this issue, having cancelled substantial amounts of debt owed to it. The association calls on the government to raise the bar on this issue, cancelling 100 percent of the debts owed to Canada by the poorest countries, and insisting that multilateral institutions do the same."

In its open letter, Micah Challenge Canada highlights Canada's faltering track record as a compassionate global neighbour, noting that the country's "aid budget was reduced by almost one-half in the decade of the 1990s and … even now the projected rate of increase will not bring us to the oft-stated goal of .7 percent of our GNI by 2015. A number of donor countries have reached that goal and others have made genuine commitments to do so by 2015. Canada can, and must, do no less."

As Canadian Christians, I am convinced that we must stand up for those impacted by global poverty. We must continue to deepen at all levels our commitment to serve the poor. It is an integral part of our calling as Christ followers. It is an integral part of the Gospel http://www.micahnetwork.org/eng/index.php/home/integral_mission.

Geoff Tunnicliffe is the international coordinator for the World Evangelical Alliance, and director of global initiatives with the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada.

 

 
 
 
 

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