• Follow the Leaders

    Posted by John

    21 June, 2012

    I regularly have conversations with people who are passionate about the cause of poverty reduction, yet feel disheartened that their friends, or even their churches, don’t seem to care enough (or in some cases don’t seem to care at all) about addressing the issue. 

    This kind of apathy is undoubtedly one of the biggest obstacles we face in the fight to overcome poverty. It can make the strongest of us feel disheartened at times. But every now and then we’re encouraged by breakthroughs. Every now and then something pulls us out of the miry clay caused by apathy and inspires us to express our hope through action.

    This week’s open letters, sent from Australia’s church leaders to the leaders of both the government and the opposition, provide us with one of those moments of inspiration.

    The letters, signed by leaders of most of Australia’s Christian denominations, express deep disappointment at the broken promise from the government as it pushed out its timetable to increase aid to 0.5% of GNI beyond 2015. The leaders expressed their collective belief that efforts to overcome extreme poverty are a profound moral duty for both individuals and governments. They presented a strong statement to government that further delays are not acceptable, nor are further postponements to defer the bulk of the spending into the later years of the timetable.

    The letter to the Coalition calls on Tony Abbott and Julie Bishop to make a public response to the government’s deferral. At this point in time, the Coalition have affirmed they remain committed to reaching the 0.5% target, but have not set a date to do so. The reality is, a commitment without a timetable is really no commitment at all.

    In a political context where the two major parties disagree on almost everything, there has been longstanding bipartisan commitment to this issue. It’s vital that we seek to maintain this bipartisanship. This issue is too important to be used for political point-scoring.

    The letters are really just a starting point. In order for them to be effective, we need the full weight of the churches these leaders represent to lend their support to the letters. We’re asking people to take some simple actions to add weight to the message in the letters.

    Would you consider adding your voice to this action by:
    1. Forwarding the letter to your MP by email and indicating your support for it.
    2. Profiling the letter in your church – put it on the website or send it out in the newsletter or weekly email.
    3. Arranging a meeting with your MP in their electorate office  - to highlight the issues addressed by the letter.
    Perhaps you could even contact the leader of your denomination to thank them for signing on. It helps to let our leaders know that their leadership is appreciated and important.

    We've provided more helpful links and resources available here.

    I’m so thankful to God for the unity we see across the churches on this issue. We cannot take this for granted. We need to protect it, pray for it and nurture it by continually displaying it in our actions.

    Strong leadership inspires action. My hope and prayer is that this display of unity from our leaders will help us once again turn our backs on apathy, and find the inspiration we need to continue along the long road of seeking justice for the poorest people in our world.