• An opportunity to build on progress

    Posted by Steve

    4 April, 2014

    In February 2003 a dozen or so people from across the world came together in Seattle. Our purpose was to give practical shape to an emerging global campaign. For several months the leadership of two global networks, the Micah Network and the World Evangelical Alliance, had been giving serious prayer and consideration to what on the surface seemed to many a highly improbable dream.

    The background to our gathering was a truly remarkable pledge made by the world’s political leaders a couple of years earlier – a millennium promise to halve world poverty by 2015. Was there something we could or should do to support those leaders to make good their pledge? How could we help them achieve their so-called Millennium Development Goals?  How might we and the networks we represented be able to encourage them to keep their eyes on the goals? Or call them to account if they appeared to be shirking? Could we create an on-going campaign that would serve both as a catalyst for alerting millions of Christians around the world to God’s passion for justice and God’s compassion for the poor, and as a vehicle for them to give expression to these deep concerns of God? These were the questions that summoned us together.   

    We talked and prayed, and talked and prayed some more, and by the time we left Seattle a few days later we were of one mind and heart. Later in the year Micah Challenge was launched internally within the two parent bodies, and on October 15, 2004, Micah Challenge was launched publicly at the UN Headquarters in New York. It was already well underway in Australia, with the appointment of Amanda Jackson as the National Coordinator in June.

    That was ten to eleven years ago, and now 2015 is just around the corner. Has all the effort and energy put into Micah Challenge been worthwhile? Have we succeeded in what we set out to do? It’s important to wrestle with these questions, and earlier blogs on this site have already provided thoughtful reflection. With respect to the MDGs, any fair assessment would look very similar to many of the reports I received as I wandered through my high school years – “Has achieved a few good results, but could do much better if he applied himself more fully!” World poverty has been halved, though the MDGs have only been one factor in this wonderful achievement, and some of the MDG targets have been met while others haven’t.

    In the Australian context we had several years of positive increases to the aid budget, thanks in large part to the effectiveness of campaigning facilitated by Micah Challenge and Make Poverty History. We also witnessed a substantial increase in the involvement of Christians and churches in advocating for the global poor. Micah Challenge’s Voices for Justice gatherings in Canberra have provided a wonderful vehicle for this, along with other Micah Challenge events and programmes. But 2014 has been very discouraging. For the first time since 2000 our aid budget has been reduced. But we can’t allow discouragement to dissuade us from pursuing goals that are so thoroughly in alignment with biblical values. Nor can we allow it to produce within us an unhelpful and unproductive cynicism.

    I was recently introduced to a fascinating quote from the Talmud, one of Judaism’s sacred texts:

    Do not be daunted by the enormity of the world’s grief. Do justly, now. Love mercy, now. Walk humbly, now. You are not obligated to complete the work, but neither are you free to abandon it.”

    The connection of this exhortation to Micah 6.8 is unmistakable, and I find it so meaningful that I have stuck a printed copy stuck on my study wall.

    The work we set out to do in Seattle in 2003 is far, far from complete. But abandoning it is not an option.  Whatever name or flag we might do it under, the prophetic responsibility to call upon our leaders to rule and govern in the interests of the poor remains as long as people continue to live and struggle in poverty. We have a job to do and we need to get on with it!

    The UN’s High Level Panel on the Post-2015 Development Agenda may well have provided what will become the new framework for development.Its Report outlines five “transformative shifts” and argues for a new approach to the setting of national goals and targets designed to achieve these shifts. Along with this more participatory approach, the Report’s transformative shifts emphasise key areas inadequately embraced by the earlier MDGs, including a sharper focus on the poorest of the poor and the critical interface of sustainable development and climate change.

    The adoption of the High Level Panel’s recommendations would provide a helpful framework for our on-going advocacy with and for the global poor.

    We're anticipating a new set of global goals will be released from this process in September. This will be a significant opportunity to build on progress and encourage our Government to commit to playing our part in achieving these goals. Watch this space.

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    Steve Bradbury is the Director of Tabor College's Micah 6.8 Centre was previously the Chair of Micah Challenge International.