Micah Challenge Inspires Greater Action on Poverty

International Development Secretary Douglas Alexander joined a host of MPs, peers and church leaders at a Micah Challenge reception to inspire greater action on behalf of the world's poor.

Alexander, the son of a Church of Scotland minister, commended Christians for their ongoing efforts to tackle extreme poverty around the world at the "Micah's Challenge Laid Down" reception in Westminster in London Monday night.

"The challenges are clear. So too must be the response of people of conscience and concern," Alexander told guests. "We can be the first generation to make poverty history and I believe that working together we can achieve this."

The anti-poverty reception also included the representatives of some of the biggest humanitarian agencies, including World Vision and Tearfund.

"Faith groups, through their network of followers, have the power to mobilize millions across the world and inspire others to do the same. For centuries Christians have been working to eradicate poverty," Alexander said.

"In this year of action on the Millennium Development Goals I am heartened to know this will continue and that together in partnership we are pushing to accelerate progress on the MDGs and truly form a global partnership for development."

The Micah Challenge international movement has gained momentum year on year since its launch at the U.N. headquarters in New York in 2004. Inspired by the Scripture passage Micah 6:8 ("He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God."), the movement brings together Christians of all denominations to speak up for the world's poorest people and lobby governments to stay committed to the Millennium Development Goal to halve extreme global poverty by 2015.

The reception gave a taste of injustice by determining at the roll of a die whether guests were to be "rich" or "poor" for the duration of the evening. While "rich" guests helped themselves to sumptuous canapés, the "poor" guests had to make do with bread and glasses of water.

Joel Edwards, the new International Director of Micah Challenge, invited them to become part of something "global and godly and very, very positive."

"Imagine a world in which we have failed in our promises to the poor," he said. "But imagine a world in which we have conspired together with God to fulfill the spirit of Micah in the 21st century."

Andy Clasper, Executive Director of Micah Challenge U.K., reminded guests that poverty in the world was "totally arbitrary."

"An accident of longitude or latitude determines your fate," he noted.

Clasper challenged them to stand up and speak out on behalf of the poor. "As the leaders, prophets and priests of our time we have a choice. Are we going to settle for the world we see around us or are we going to be part of creating a better world?"