World Religious Leaders Present Anti-Poverty Communiqué to U.N.

NEW YORK – Tuesday, a historic delegation of world Christian leaders met in New York to offer their partnership to international heads of state, over 170 of which are gathered at the United Nations for the 2005 World Summit.

The communiqué presented by the delegation calls on the United Nations to allow the Churches to help achieve the ambitious U.N.-sponsored Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

"We believe that our communities of faith, representing millions of people and having sponsored numerous human-development initiatives, can provide new models for advancing a global movement against poverty," the document reads. "The Churches have a vast network of institutions, trusted relationships with millions of people and access to countless local communities, all rich resources for development."

In the past several weeks, the MDGs have been just one of the several issues that the United Nations has been wrangling with, as it strives to come to a consensus on divisive issues, such as human rights, terrorism, security, and UN management reform.

The General Assembly announced yesterday that they had endorsed a scaled-down version of the original draft by U.N. General-Secretary Kofi Annan. This was just one day ahead of the World Summit which convened to adopt the statement and assess the progress towards MDGs achievement.

The Christian communique includes their stance on seven issue areas: justice in society, partnerships between religious organizations and government, accountability and transparency, cancellation of debt, increase of development assistance, promotion of trade justice, and security.

"In making these calls to government, we know that the Churches themselves must be active partners in the work of development and building a just world economy," the Church leaders’ presented statement by read. "Without new strategic partnerships, the world will fail to fulfill the aspirations of the Millennium Declaration."

At the urgent call of Church leaders in the global South, Christian world leaders took this opportunity to make known their desire to help the United Nations achieve the Millennium Development Goals, which nations have not been kept up with after five years according to the goals’ timeline.

Several events since 2000 indicate that the time is right, according to General Secretary of the World Alliance of Reformed Churches, The Rev. Dr. Setri Nyomi. Not only has the United Nations adopted MDGs but the 191-member international body has also been more open to faith-based, NGO initiatives as opposed to organizational initiatives – a rarity in the secular world that has become more natural since President George W. Bush's faith-based initiatives and Tony Blair’s G8 Summit on development in Africa.

There is enough wealth to go around; it only needs to be equalized, and there are people willing to help, Nyomi said.

"Never before in the history of humankind have we been faced with this scale of poverty as we see today," he added. “To think that there are enough resources to feed everyone, yet inequality has made the rich richer and the poor poorer - that tells us we have a moment."

Churches are already dedicated to anti-poverty, and many of the networks began movements of their own. The communiqué represents a call for partnership.

The Communiqué was signed over the weekend at a consultation of religious leaders at Washington National Cathedral in Washington, D.C.