by the Most Revd Njongonkulu Ndungane.
There are many forms of oppression and suffering – they can be physical, mental, emotional or spiritual. Poverty is often caused by oppression, and usually causes suffering. Poverty undermines families and damages communities.
There are 6.3 billion people in the world today. Over a billion live on less than a dollar a day. Almost 850 million (one in seven people) suffer from hunger.
The eight Millennium Development Goals are the most ambitious commitment that world governments have ever made to fighting poverty. The first Millennium Development Goal is to reduce absolute poverty and hunger by half by 2015.
The next six goals all focus on the causes and consequences of poverty. Their targets include reducing child mortality and improving maternal health, achieving universal primary education, combating HIV and AIDS, malaria and other diseases and bringing sustainable access to clean drinking water.
The final millennium goal is to develop a global partnership for development. The only way we can even begin to achieve the other seven is for everyone to work together. This includes governments, international institutions, the business sector, the private sector and civil society.
Acting together, Christians can play a vital role in helping global partners to meet their commitments. When we work with one another, united as nationalities and races, as rich and poor and as men, women and children, we have an enormously powerful and influential voice. We must speak up loud and clear.
World governments can afford to do all that is necessary to meet the Millennium Development Goals. But the question is whether or not we have the will power. Governments can say the words, but they need all the encouragement and pressure that we can give, to meet their commitments. They need to hear that their citizens truly want them to take the difficult steps that are required, so we may live in a world where there is ‘some for all’, not ‘all for just some’.
Micah Challenge is a campaign against poverty created by the 270 member organisations of the Micah Network and by the World Evangelical Alliance, which represents three million local churches worldwide. It seeks to mobilise Christians from around the world to work together and campaign for justice for those who are poor, suffering and oppressed. It encourages Christians to put pressure on world leaders to meet the Millennium Development Goals.
This challenge starts with one small verse, in one small book of the Bible: ‘What does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.’ (Micah 6:8)
To act justly – to live according to need, and not according to greed.
To love mercy – to recognise in every person the image of God, and grant them the same dignity, the same respect, the same opportunities that we enjoy, in this life as well as in the life to come.
To walk humbly with your God – to acknowledge that all of creation is God’s gift, and that we are his stewards, called to care for the world’s resources and share them with all.
It is a challenge to all of us, to spread hope in this hurting world. As individuals, we can all help to put pressure on global leaders to play their part in securing a more just and merciful world.
May the Lord bless us as we seek to follow him humbly in the path to which he calls us.
The Most Revd Njongonkulu Ndungane is the Archbishop of Cape Town. This article is adapted with permission from a speech he gave at the launch of Micah Challenge at the United Nations in October 2004.
For further information about the Micah Challenge see p14.
The Millennium Development Goals
GOAL 1 Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger
GOAL 2 Achieve universal primary education
GOAL 3 Promote gender equality and empower women
GOAL 4 Reduce child mortality
GOAL 5 Improve maternal health
GOAL 6 Combat HIV and AIDS, malaria and other diseases
GOAL 7 Ensure environmental sustainability
GOAL 8 Develop a global partnership for development