Yesterday, the tenth day of the tenth month of the tenth year of the new millennium, was a global day to reflect on progress made towards commitments made by all 192 United Nations member states in 2000 to reduce extreme poverty and hunger and improve health standards.
These commitments were expressed in the following eight Millennium Development Goals (MDG’s):
• Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger
• Achieve universal primary education
• Promote gender equality and empower women
• Reduce child mortality rate
• Improve maternal health
• Combat HIV/AIDS, malaria, and other diseases
• Ensure environmental sustainability
• Develop a global partnership for development.
In yesterday morning’s service in my home church in Auckland, New Zealand, (where I am on a brief, unplanned trip to celebrated my father’s 92nd birthday), we were challenged as a congregation to consider what sort of neighbours we were, in the context of a sermon on the Good Samaritan.
The two most needy world regions, according to the speaker, were Africa and the Pacific. Kiwis needed to evaluate progress being made towards these goals among their immediate neighbours in the South Pacific islands, we heard.
My thoughts went to the statement made by Robert Schuman when he announced the plan that birthed what has become the European Union sixty years ago. If the European peoples would learn to live and work together, he said, their increased production could be used to achieve one of Europe’s essential tasks: ‘the development of the African continent’.
He did not mean that in a patronising or colonial sense, but in a Christian ‘Good Samaritan’ sense. The EU was not conceived as a rich man’s club, but to be a blessing also to other world regions.
How different that attitude is from some of our European politicians now who are calling to cut back on aid and to just look after ourselves! They are expressing a rising but regrettable grass roots attitude towards ‘others’.
The Old Testament prophet Micah challenged God’s people to act justly, to love mercy and to walk humbly with their God (Micah 6:8). Christians around the world have responded to Micah by taking a lead role in campaigns such as Jubilee 2000 which called for the cancellation of unpayable developing world debt by the year 2000.
The World Evangelical Alliance (WEA) and the Micah Network of Christian relief and development agencies launched a global Christian partnership called the Micah Challenge to support the MDG’s. The Micah Challenge aims to encourage Christians to engage with the issues and injustices of poverty; and to hold governments to their commitments to the Millennium Development Goals.
Goals of course need to be measurable and have deadlines. Each of the eight MDG’s have been broken down to specific measurable targets to be reached by 2015.
Which is now only five years away.
Is that still feasible?
Yes, says the UN secretary general, Ban Ki-moon–if enough work is done. But scepticism and a global economic downturn don’t help, he admits. Many are cynical about billions of dollars going to corrupt governments, or about aid simply going to closest allies rather than those with greatest development needs.
Economist Jeffrey Sachs, one of the architects of the goals, accuses high-income countries of spending trillions of dollars on war but not sufficiently investing in peace.
The Micah Challenge aims to bring global poverty to the hearts of Christians worldwide, raising prayer for the poor, and commitment to hold politicians everywhere to account. (See www.micahchallenge.org)
It’s all about being good neighbours.
Till next week,