Christian Leaders to Affirm Anti-Poverty Efforts Ahead of U.N. World Summit

Over 30 Christian leaders from denominations worldwide will gather this Sunday to affirm a U.N. plan to halve extreme poverty by 2015.

The Christian leaders will converge at Washington National Cathedral in Washington, D.C., ahead of next week's U.N. World Summit in New York where political leaders from 191 nations will gather to discuss ways to solve the problem. There, they will affirm the Millennium Development Goals created by U.N. members in 2000.

The event, to be called "Consultation of Religious Leaders on Global Poverty," will be open to the public, and will include a speech by noted anti-poverty advocate and economist Dr. Jeffrey Sachs. Private meetings will continue until Sept. 13 and a communiqué presenting results will be delivered to the U.N.

"The upcoming consultation on Global Poverty provides the religious communities with a tremendous opportunity to reflect together on ways we can be part of the solution in the fight against the ‘giant’ of poverty which ravages so many of our peoples," World Evangelical Alliance (WEA) international board chair Rev. Ndaba Mazabane said in a statement released by the WEA.

The Millennium Development Goals the leaders will be discussing include eight objectives on poverty, hunger, primary education, AIDS and others to be achieved by 2015. Those goals were also incorporated into the Micah Challenge – a global campaign to mobilize Christians against poverty that began in 2004. Micah Challenge director and WEA international coordinator Geoff Tunnifcliffe will also participate in the discussions.

Also scheduled to attend are more than 30 current and former leaders from Christian bodies, including, the Episcopal Church (USA), the World Methodist Council, the Lutheran World Federation, the Anglican Church of Canada, the All Africa Conference of Churches.

At the event to take place at 2 p.m. on Sunday, the keynote speaker will be the director of the Millennium Project, renowned economist Dr. Jeffrey Sachs who also directs the Earth Institute at Columbia University.

Sachs has been a forceful advocate for reducing poverty worldwide. In March, two weeks before the G8 summit of industrial world leaders in Scotland, Time magazine ran an excerpt of his book, “The End of Poverty” as a cover story. Reviewing his book, rock star and anti-poverty activist Bono, who is also Christian, noted the author’s passion.

"When this man gets going, he's more like a Harlem preacher than a Boston bookworm," he said in the People's Economist magazine.

Sachs proposes in the book that it is not up to the poor to lift themselves out of poverty, but is something that requires help.

"It is no good to lecture the dying that they should have done better with their lot in life," he says in the book. “Rather it is our task to help them onto the ladder of development, to give them at least a foothold on the bottom rung, from which they can then proceed to climb on their own.”

Sachs acknowledges that there is skepticism in richer nations to help poorer ones.

"If the poor are poor because they are lazy or their governments are corrupt, how could global cooperation help?” he supposes that some say.

Sachs regards such concerns as misconceptions and only a small part of the problem.

"The world's remaining challenge is not mainly to overcome laziness and corruption, but rather to take on the solvable problems of geographic isolation, disease and natural hazards, and to do so with new arrangements of political responsibility that can get the job done."

He adds that, “The task of ending extreme poverty is a collective one - for you as well as for me. The end of poverty will require a global network of cooperation among people who have never met and who do not necessarily trust one another.”

The public is invited to attend Sunday's meeting at Washington National Cathedral in Washington D.C at 2 p.m.