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An achievable goal
Let’s speak with ONE voice to end global poverty


10/1/2006

Bishop Joncy Itty
A boy replaces his doorway barrier in a displaced persons camp in Kerala, India.   (Bishop Joncy Itty)

 
Episcopal Relief and Development
A Chilean family in the Andes gets visitors in the new home they recieved through Episcopal Relief and Development.   (Episcopal Relief and Development)
Did you know that every three seconds in our world, someone dies simply because he or she is too poor to continue living?   Or that every six seconds, someone dies from AIDS, malaria or tuberculosis?   Or that in Asia, Latin America, Africa and the Caribbean, a child is orphaned every 14 seconds?

Before you read further, write down a web address: www.episcopalchurch.org/ONE.  We’ll come back to it in a moment.

These realities – along with conflict and war, inequality between men and women and lack of basic education for millions of children around the world – comprise global poverty.   An all-encompassing cycle in which one problem compounds all others, global poverty binds more than one billion of God’s people and contributes to a world where true security and stability remain always out of grasp.

The good news is that the solutions for global poverty are within the world’s reach.  The Millennium Development Goals -- a set of eight targets for eradicating global poverty that have been adopted by 189 nations including the United States – are built on the understanding that the resources, strategies and knowledge to end this crisis exist, if only the moral will can be built.

The even better news for Episcopalians is that the General Convention, recognizing that the voices of people of faith are key to the achievement of the MDGs, voted to make the goals the top mission priority for te Episcopal Church over the next three years.   In order to do this, the convention endorsed a new effort called ONE Episcopalian in which the church has partnered with ONE: The Campaign to Make Poverty History.

The fight against global poverty can be won.  The MDGs see partnership between nations like the United States and the poorest countries in the world as critical.   Poor countries are called to fight corruption, promote good governance and engage all segments of society in developing strategies for eradicating poverty.  Rich countries, in turn, are called to provide foreign aid focused on fighting poverty, to relieve the old and illegitimate debts of poor countries and to promote fair international-trade rules that allow impoverished countries to build their own prosperity.

How is the United States doing in keeping its end of the bargain?  Not nearly as well as it could be.  The U.S. government spends just a fraction of one percent of its national income each year on fighting poverty in the world. Americans are a very generous people, as shown by the outpouring of resources in response to natural disasters, and the large and growing movement of Episcopalians who give 0.7 percent of their income to groups like Episcopal Relief and Development that are fighting global poverty.

As important as personal generosity is, though, it can be most effective only when joined with the government partnerships envisioned by the MDGs.  Americans want their government to be as generous as they are.

The ONE Campaign is a movement of more than two million Americans of all beliefs and every walk of life who believe that by standing as ONE we can call our government to do better.   The goal of ONE is for the U.S. government to spend an additional ONE percent of its federal budget each year toward providing basic needs like health, education, clean water and food to transform the future of an entire generation in the world’s poorest countries. 

An additional ONE percent of the U.S. budget would prevent 10 million children from becoming AIDS orphans; put 104 million children in grade school; provide safe drinking water to 900 million people around the world; and save 6.5 million children from death before their fifth birthdays. An additional ONE percent would build a better, safer world for all people, a world that looks radically more like God’s will for it.

The only way we will get there, though, is if average people hold their government to account.  ONE Episcopalian is a way to do that. The campaign seeks to equip dioceses, parishes and individuals to be effective advocates for the MDGs with Congress and the White House. ONE Episcopalian will connect the voices of Episcopalians with other Americans who are part of the movement to end global poverty.

To learn more, visit the web address you wrote down at the beginning of this column. Join the ONE Episcopalian campaign and the Episcopal Public Policy Network.  There is much your diocese and your parish can do.  Most importantly, there is much you – ONE person – can do.

Global poverty can seem like an overwhelming problem. Indeed it is.   But as Episcopalians know well, other overwhelming challenges – the struggle against apartheid and the Jubilee 2000 movement for debt cancellation, to name two recent ones – were met by people raising their voices ONE by ONE.

To respond to this column, write to Episcopal Life or e-mail Commentary@episcopal-life.org. We welcome your own “Commentary” at the same address.