ARLINGTON, Va. – U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon highlighted the common social concerns of the United Nations and the evangelical community as he informed leaders Thursday of the progress toward the Millennium Development Goals.
Like "[y]ou who contribute so much to causes close to our hearts – peace, good works and prosperity for all – … I believe in moral passion grounded in concrete action" he said in the opening of his much-anticipated address.
Ban is the first U.N. secretary general to speak at a National Association of Evangelicals summit.
Yet NAE's president, Leith Anderson, was quick to emphasize that the focus of the two-day gathering, which ends Friday, is not on the high-profile U.N. speaker but rather on the teaching of the Gospel.
"We are not here for the secretary-general," stated Anderson ahead of the dinner speech. "We are here for the people who are poor, hurting and marginalize. He (Ban) is here to give us insight so we can help those people."
Most of Ban's Thursday night address was spent on informing and updating evangelical leaders on the MDGs – eight social goals that governments worldwide have committed to fulfill by 2015. The MDGs include eradicating extreme poverty and hunger, achieving universal primary education, combating HIV/AIDS and other diseases, and reducing child mortality.
"I know you are familiar with this war," said Ban.
"Christian evangelicals have pursued a similar calling for more years than the United Nations have existed," he acknowledged.
Christians were praised for delivering aid, urging the cancellation of debt, and fighting AIDS around the world.
The secretary-general reminded the evangelical crowd of the long history that faith-based organizations have had with the United Nations.
In 1945, out of 42 non-governmental organizations involved in the creation of the United Nations 14 were faith-based. Now, there are about 4,000 NGOs accredited with the United Nations of which 400 are faith-based organizations.
"This should be of no surprise considering the nature of our common cause," commented Ban.
The dinner with Ban was the first part of the two-day Global Leaders Forum convened by the National Association of Evangelicals and Micah Challenge USA. The forum has brought together evangelical leaders from the United States and the Global South.
"The time for biblical justice is now but it is appropriate for all times in all places in all situation," said Richard Cizik, vice president of government affairs at the NAE. "What our cry is is a cry for biblical justice in the time of need.
"We are reaching out," Cizik declared. "This is not mushy, social gospel. This is not hogwash. This is what Jesus himself said."
On Friday, after hearing the U.N. secretary-general's address, leaders will discuss issues including poverty, hunger, HIV/AIDS, trafficking, bioethics, human rights, creation care, torture, and peacemaking.
"More than ever, we need the National Association of Evangelicals, the Micah challenge and others in the faith communities to help the goals to be achieved," said Ban.
"Your engagement can push governments to follow through on their commitments."