Baptists in the United Kingdom are at the forefront of an effort to reduce global poverty through the Make Poverty History campaign that presses the world’s richest countries to reduce the number of people dying in poverty through changes in foreign policies.
According to Make Poverty History, some 30,000 children die daily from extreme poverty.
Britain’s Tony Blair, host of the summit known as the G8, has made African poverty a top item on his agenda. The G8 nations include Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia and the United States. They will meet next week in Scotland.
The Make Poverty History campaign has three main goals: trade justice; cancellation of debt; and more and better aid.
Campaign organizers contend that the poor are trapped in a system of trade injustice which benefits rich nations and causes the poor to slip deeper into poverty every year.
The second goal, debt cancellation, relates to the fact that some poor nations spend more repaying rich nations and their institutions debts from loans than they spend on meeting the needs of their own people. Organizers point out that the promises of rich nations made seven years ago to forgive the unpayable debt the poorest nations have still not been kept.
The third goal, more and better aid, aims at an immediate increase in foreign aid from rich nations to the poorest people, as well as better designed aid programs.
“This is a year of great opportunity when we can make a difference for millions who live in desperate poverty in our world,” said an article on the BUGB Web site. “The UK government will be in a unique position to challenge the unjust structures that keep millions of people trapped in poverty.”
The article said, “As part of our gospel commitment, we hope as many Baptists as possible will participate in the global movement to Make Poverty History.”
Baptists are being encouraged to gather in Edinburgh on July 2 in the “Faith Zone” under the BUGB and BMS banners.
BUGB’s president, Roy Searle, will speak before the march and preach the next day at Bristo Baptist Church.
The world’s oldest Baptist mission-sending organization, BMS World Mission, rooted its membership in the campaign in its “history of fighting injustice and campaigning on behalf of the voiceless poor.”
BMS noted its fight against slavery in the 19th century, opposition to colonial oppression in the 1960s and involvement in Jubilee 2000 campaign in recent years.
“Throughout the Bible, God’s concern for the poor and the oppressed is evident. It is a shocking indictment that the church has relegated a concern for justice to the fringes of mainstream Christianity when it is such a central theme of the Bible,” said an article on the BMS Web site.
“It is a serious campaign where we are speaking out for those whose voice is rarely heard, affirming God’s heart for the poor, demanding a just and better deal for the developing nations,” wrote Searle to Baptists in Britain about the July 2 rally.
“We are here to make a difference and in the words of Sir Bob Geldoff, Chairman for the Commission for Africa, ‘We are not going away.'”
Robert Parham is executive director of the Baptist Center for Ethics.