Church Leaders Pray, Push for UN to Hit Millennium Goals Targeting Global Poverty

2 photos(Photo: World Vision/Matthew Scott)Richard Stearns, President of World Vision United States, speaks to a group of faith leaders and humanitarian organizations at World Vision's prayer vigil in New York City on Wednesday, Sept. 25, 2013.

Christian leaders have called on the faith community to help the United Nations and its partners maximize efforts in the Millennium Development Goals initiative meant to eradicate extreme poverty, reduce child deaths and ensure environmental sustainability within the next two and a half years.

"We must celebrate the successes of the Millennium Development Goals, but realize there is much more to be done to reach the targets we have set ourselves," said World Vision President Rich Stearns, according to a press release. "The church can play an important role in galvanizing action."

Stearns made the remarks Wednesday at the "Church Leaders Praying and Acting to End Extreme Poverty" event at The Church Center near the U.N. General Assembly in New York City, meant to coincide with the annual meeting of the world's leaders.

World Vision partnered with Micah Challenge, the National Latino Evangelical Coalition, Sojourners, the World Evangelical Alliance and Bread for the World to gather leaders from across the U.S. to not only pray that more would be done in achieving the eight Millennium Development Goals, but also advocate for ways in which churches, Christians and nonprofits can engage and get behind the U.N.-brokered initiative.

Birthed in 2000 out of the Millennium Summit of the U.N. among the global body's member states and international organizations, the initiative's eight goals to be met by the year 2015 are to: (1) Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger; (2) Achieve universal primary education; (3) Promote gender equality and empower women; (4) Reduce child mortality; (5) Improve maternal health; (6) Combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases; (7) Ensure environmental sustainability; and (8) Develop a global partnership for development.

According to Dr. Azza Karam, senior culture adviser at the U.N. Population Fund, it is vital for the global body to continue working side-by-side with faith-based communities to address issues of poverty. She added that there was "growing recognition in the international development and humanitarian community of the role of faith in providing significant moral, social and political support for progress in the face of hardship and adversity," according to the press statement.

Since the Millennium Development Goals were established over a decade ago, the number of people living in abject poverty, child deaths and the loss of life from malaria have been significantly hampered. However, the 2013 Millennium Development Goals Report, available online, indicates that despite meeting three of the eight goals (on poverty, slums and water) ahead of its 2015 deadline, much more needs to be done to not only accomplish other goals but to sustain progress that has already been made.

Top U.N. representatives and members of the private sector met this week, under the leadership of Secretary‐General Ban Ki‐moon and recommitted themselves to furthering work on the Millennium Development Goals.

"From health, food security and energy, to education, sanitation and cutting‐edge innovation, the United Nations is most effective when we bring all relevant actors together – governments, international organizations, civil society and the private sector," said Ban during the high-level meeting that also included philanthropists and government and business leaders.

"Our goal is to provide a platform where all those in a position to contribute can come together to exchange life‐saving ideas and promote concrete solutions to the most pressing challenges of our time," he added.

The Millennium Development Goals have been the most effective global anti‐poverty push in history, according to the U.N.