• Joining together for and with the world's poor

    Posted by Paul

    30 April, 2012

    For years now Micah Challenge has been advocating for and with the global poor - to achieve the Millennium Development Goals and address some of the worst aspects of global poverty by 2015. One of the reasons I feel honoured to be chair of Micah Challenge Australia is the amazing progress we have seen.

    Just twenty years ago, more than twelve million children died every year from preventable causes. Last year, that number was fewer than eight million. An additional 40 million children each year have been able to receive a basic education since 2000.

    Of course, behind every statistic like this, there are countless local and personal stories of transformation and hope.

    Australian aid has played its part.  Former Prime Minister Howard began the process, promising to double the aid budget, and Labor have built on that by promising to increase aid to 0.5% of Gross National Income. This is now a promise that both the ALP and the Liberal-National Coalition have made. I have been impressed, and sometimes amazed, at how responsive politicians have been to Micah Challlenge’s grassroots campaigners at Voices for Justice in Canberra each year.

    However, just a few years short of the 2015 target date the Australian Government is wavering on its commitment.

    It’s my personal conviction, and that of Micah Challenge and its supporting partners, that bringing the budget back into surplus should not be at the expense of the world’s poor. The reality is that keeping the promise to increase aid could save more than 800,000 lives (on conservative estimates) and this progress is put at risk if the Government breaks its commitment. Dollars saved in the budget will equate to lives not saved in our region and beyond. 

    We have been working hard in the lead up to Budget Day, 8 May, to let the Government know how many Australians are concerned that the aid promise is kept. I have been encouraged to see thousands of people calling and emailing politicians.

    Prime Minister Gillard promised to increase aid to 0.5% GNIPrime Minister Gillard promised to increase aid to 0.5% GNIPrime Minister Gillard promised to increase aid to 0.5% GNIThis week, Micah Challenge, GetUp, the Global Poverty Project, Action Aid, World Vision and the Oaktree Foundation are going a step further and publishing a statement in support of the campaign in newspapers around the country. GetUp may not seem a natural partner for Micah Challenge – most of our supporters and partners (individuals, churches and organisations) are Christian. However, the opportunity to raise a powerful common voice for a common cause with experienced campaigning groups like GetUp is one we didn’t want to pass up. It’s a sign of God’s common grace that a concern for justice and the poor exists in the hearts of people of many different faiths, and of none, and it’s a powerful witness politically when different groups rally together for one purpose.

    I love that a range of different groups can join together for this common cause. GetUp’s online organisation and media reach will bring the message to thousands more people than we could otherwise reach. They also have the tools to “crowdsource” the funding for these advertisements, so that Micah Challenge can support the campaign without spending money we don’t have on newspaper advertisements we couldn’t afford on our own. I'm excited that so many people are willing to go above and beyond their regular contributions to international aid and development organisations to also contribute to this collective effort. It’s because of this organisation and generosity that Micah Challenge can be part of this action.

    Let’s keep praying that, with so many people raising their voices, the Government will have no option but to hear our cry.

    You can sign the online petition and make a contribution towards the newspaper advertisement here.

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    The Reverend Paul Perini is Senior Minister at St Johns Anglican Church in Glebe and Chair of the National Steering Committee of Micah Challenge Australia