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01 July 2010

Don't forget the poor

Don't forget the poor

Christians are uniting to urge governments to envision a world that's free of poverty. Hazel Southam reports...

What one thing could you do that would help the poor? That's the question that we asked people outside Waterloo station. At first there was a lot of "umming" and "erring". But it's a question that prompted deep thought in young and old alike. Helplessness soon changed to tangible ideas.

"Growing my own food at home so that there is more food to go around," said one. "I try to buy fairly traded products," said another. "Campaigning would be a good thing - to try to lobby the government," said a third.

This year, Micah Challenge is calling on Christians around the world to remember the poor and through their remembrance to commit to doing one thing that will make a difference to the 1.7 billion people who live on less than 70p per day. That can be anything from lobbying their MP, buying fairly traded products, giving to charity or praying.

Archbishop backs Micah Challenge

Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams (c) Brian G Bukowski

"Remembering the poor is not simply asking us to give them a thought from time to time," says the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams.

"Remembrance is a real and active thing. Our remembrance must be a renewal of relationship. We can ask ourselves what we can do to renew this relationship. It may be looking at ethical trading, at our habits of purchasing and consumption and by prayer at every level. So remember, remember what God has asked, remember what we can do. We can make the difference that God wants us to make."

The initiative started in June. But what can it achieve? What difference does doing one small thing really make? According to Micah Challenge UK's Executive Director Andy Clasper, the aim is simple. "We want to see justice, where everyone has enough," he says. "The world is moving on at a pace and all of our efforts seem to be focused on economic progress, but that's not shared equally around the world. More than 1 billion people are being left behind.

"The call that we are issuing is to remember the poor. That was at the heart of the early Church. We can remember the poor after the Haiti earthquake but forget them when we do the weekly shop. We want people to see the many ways that they can care for the world."

Christian Aid's Church Relations Officer, Andy Wilson agrees. "People feel that they can't do anything, but everybody can touch the lives of at least one person," he says. "Once you do that you transform yourself. You realise that you can make a difference."

Remembering the poor, he says, "is symbolic of something deeper, of everyday discipleship, of remembering that everyday choices make a big difference."

The scheme comes in the run-up to 10 October (10/10/10), which will be a global day of prayer for people living in poverty. It comes just five years before the Millennium Development Goals - set to halve poverty - are due to be fulfilled.

Experts believe that, at the present rate, the goals will not be met. So Micah Challenge's aim is to remind politicians of the urgency of keeping their promises in relation to goals that will transform lives and lift millions out of abject poverty.

Under the scheme, individuals pledge to remember the poor in a practical way and write that pledge down. Churches or home groups then collect the pledges and give them to their MP. At the same time, they can ask their MP to make his or her own commitment to remembering the poor.

"In the run-up to the General Election, I was really pleased that all the parties said that they would continue to increase aid spending," says Tearfund's Head of Campaigns, Ben Niblett. "That wouldn't have been the case 20 years ago. It's a no-brainer now. Christians and churches have been banging on about this and have brought this about. That's a massive change and a huge answer to prayer."

  • To join Micah's 2010 campaign to lead our government into adeeper commitment to create a world free from poverty, visit: micahchallenge.org.uk

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