Christians Express Concern Over Ban of Make Poverty History Ads in Britain

A media watchdog in the U.K. known as Ofcom has decided that Make Poverty History was ''wholly or mainly political'' in that it sought to ''achieve important changes'' to British and Western government policy.

Make Poverty History – a massive global anti-poverty coalition of around 530 NGOs, faith-based organizations and aid groups – was banned from advertising in Britain, according to reports on Monday.

A media watchdog in the U.K. known as Ofcom has decided that Make Poverty History was "wholly or mainly political" in that it sought to "achieve important changes" to British and Western government policy, according to Agence France-Presse (AFP).

AFP noted the fact that no one has ever lodged a complaint against the coalition’s advertisement on the radio and on the television.

The announcement came as a disappointment to many – not only campaigners but also Christians and other faith-based organizations – especially with the ban taking effect just before the U.N. World Summit, while all the global anti-poverty campaigners have been making their last efforts to lobby the government to take concrete actions against world poverty.

The Methodist Church of the Great Britain, one of the many churches in the U.K. that backs Make Poverty History, issued a press statement on Sept. 13 in response to the advertisement ban.

Anthea Cox, Methodist Coordinating Secretary for Public Life and Social Justice argued against Ofcom’s claim, saying that "the decisions that affect the well-being of millions of people are necessarily political in nature, since only politicians and those they work with and appoint (such as central bankers) have the power to bring about the changes we seek."

"That all three main British political parties backed some or all of the goals of MPH show that, whilst this campaign is played out in the political arena, it is not a party political issue," Cox clarified.

Most importantly, the Church declared "striving to end poverty and aiding the poor is an integral part of our Christian faith." The Make Poverty History campaign reveals the spirit of Christian faith in certain extent.

The Church acknowledged that Ofcom did not intend to "judge" whether the Make Poverty History campaign was "good" or "bad" politics.

However, the Church commented, "it is a concern that a campaign that many Methodists feel called to back because of their faith is now denied access to the public airwaves because it is dubbed political."

Oxfam Great Britain, which is part of the Make Poverty History coalition, also expressed deep concern.

Adrian Lovett of Oxfam, a member of the Make Poverty History coordination team, echoed the global poverty issue was not "party political", but seen by millions as "the great moral issue of our time", according to AFP.

"We're disappointed with this decision,” he said. “This advertisement simply highlights the fact that a child dies every three seconds because of preventable poverty."

Launched in January, Make Poverty History recognizes 2005 as a "make or break" year to eradicate global poverty as the U.K. holds the presidency of the EU and G8 summit. The campaign urges Britain and other seven richest nations of the world to adopt three principles to solve the world poverty problem, which are "Trade Justice", "Drop the Debt," and "More and Better Aid."

With its simple message and signature white wrist band, Make Poverty History has hailed as one of the most effective lobbying campaigns ever.

Its TV advertisement featured rock star Bono and model Claudia Schiffer who snapped their fingers every three seconds, symbolizing how often a child dies as a result of poverty somewhere in the world. Five versions of the advertisements have being circulated in the UK.

The Methodist Church stated that the ban on Make Poverty History advertisements would not affect its support.

"The Make Poverty History campaign is continuing, with important decisions yet to be taken at the upcoming WTO meeting,” it said.

Apart from the U.N. World Summit that is taking place Sept. 14-16, anti-poverty campaigners worldwide are looking forward to the December’s World Trade Meeting in Hong Kong as another golden chance to make poverty history.

“The Methodist Church will continue to back [the Make Poverty History campaign], celebrates what has already been achieved, and hopes for good news from the rest of the campaign," the Church stated.