Christian Leaders Fast Ahead of UN Poverty Summit

The Bishop of London launched a new ten-day prayer and fasting initiative on Sunday to bring more attention to the Millennium Development Goals and efforts to halve extreme global poverty.

The initiative was launched during the "Time for God's Creation" service in the historic St. Paul's Cathedral.

The prayer and fasting initiative "Think:Fast" is a joint collaboration with Micah Challenge, a global movement of Christians lobbying their governments to tackle poverty. It provides educational materials designed to help Christians pray, reflect and increase their understanding of poverty over the ten days.

The initiative culminates with Bishop Richard Chartres fasting for a full day on Sept. 24, the day before world leaders meet for the UN summit on global poverty.

Other religious leaders and politicians taking part include the head of the Roman Catholic Church in England and Wales, Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor, and Micah Challenge's International Director-designate Joel Edwards.

Chartres will also offer a public message of encouragement to Prime Minister Gordon Brown prior to the UN meeting.

He said: "In today's interconnected world, loving your neighbor starts at home but extends throughout the world. It is idle to talk of loving our neighbors while neglecting the needs of the poorest and most vulnerable people in the world.

"Supporting the Millennium Development Goals is a 21st century way of loving our neighbor. Promises have been made and world leader have to be held to account for those promises even at a time of economic difficulty."

He further expressed hope that the Think:Fast initiative will help heighten people's awareness "that we should not rest easy while others face extreme poverty and have so little share in our rich and fruitful earth."

The Executive Director of Micah Challenge UK, Andy Clasper, said the outcome of the UN meeting had the "potential to make a huge difference to the lives of some of the world's poorest."

Micah Challenge will also be rallying thousands of churches around the world to take part in Micah Sunday on Oct. 19.