Ending Extreme Poverty
2015 is a milestone year at the United Nations (UN) as it marks the end of the eight Millennium Development Goals agreed upon by the member states of the UN in 2000. These goals have led the development agenda for the past 15 years. Focusing on specific goals has led to amazing improvements in some areas. However, much has yet to be achieved.
Over the past three years the UN has led a process to develop a new set of goals for the next 15 years in a document entitled ‘Transforming our World – the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development’. The faith community has contributed to this process, believing that living out our faith in the world includes being involved in issues of international scope and importance, and advocating for the most vulnerable in this arena.
The first of the Sustainable Development Goals proposed concerns ending poverty. In April 2015, General André Cox, international leader of The Salvation Army, endorsed a statement developed by a committee of people of a variety of faith traditions entitled ‘Ending Extreme Poverty: a Moral and Spiritual Imperative’.
The following is an extract:-
‘As leaders from diverse religious traditions, we share a compelling vision to end extreme poverty by the year 2030. We in the faith community embrace this moral imperative because we share the belief that the moral test of our society is how the weakest and most vulnerable are faring. Our sacred texts also call us to combat injustice and uplift the poorest in our midst. No one, regardless of sex, age, race, or belief, should be denied experiencing the fullness of life.
‘This is why the continued existence of extreme poverty in a plentiful world offends us so deeply. Our faith is tested and our hearts are broken when, in an age of unprecedented wealth and scientific advancement, so many still live in degrading conditions. We know too well that extreme poverty thwarts human purpose, chokes human potential, and affronts human dignity. In our increasingly interconnected world, there is enough to ensure that no one has to fight for their daily survival.
‘Ending extreme poverty will require a comprehensive approach that tackles its underlying causes – including preventable illness, a lack of access to quality education, joblessness, corruption, violent conflicts, and discrimination against women, ethnic minorities and other groups. It will also necessitate a change in the habits that cause poverty – greed and waste, numbness to the pain of others, and exploitation of people and the natural world. It calls for a holistic and sustainable approach that transforms cultures and institutions, and hearts as well as minds.
‘We commit to working together to end the scandal of extreme poverty. We will act, advocate, educate, and collaborate, both among ourselves and with broader initiatives. And we commit to holding all levels of leadership accountable – public and private, domestic and international.
‘Our approach to this staggering need must be holistic, rooted in the spiritual visions of our respective faiths, and built on a shared recognition of the intrinsic dignity and value of every life on Earth.’
This month we ask prayer for guidance and wisdom in our actions as people, corps (churches) and an international church to contribute toward this goal of ending extreme poverty. Pray for changes in the attitudes and systems that perpetuate inequality and poverty, and for the people who suffer as a result.