On 10.10.10 there could be no arguments about how to write the date – whether your preference is for day or month first it didn’t matter. The day was special for another reason also – the Micah Challenge (http://www.micahchallenge.org/) had organised a global event (Micah 2010) when it was hoped that 100 million Christians worldwide would pray the global prayer. In addition Christians were asked to raise their hands and make The Big Promise, to remember the poor and remind their leaders of their commitment to the Millennium Development Goals which are designed to halve extreme poverty by 2015. As an international church, it was obvious that we should join in with an international event.
At the noon SLT service we joined with Christians round the world in praying and in promising on behalf of the poor. The readings for the day were Psalm 41, 2 Corinthians 9:6-15, Matthew 6:1-4. The talk I gave is reproduced below:
Today’s date is special. It is 10.10.10. One thing that is special about it is that the British way of writing dates and the American way are indistinguishable for once!
The date is special also because it has been designated as a ‘global moment’ by Micah Challenge, ‘Micah 2010’. Micah Challenge is an organisation with a vision to see a world free from extreme poverty. In order to do this the organisation is creating a global movement which encourages Christians to commit further to the poor, to learn more about the issues and to hold their governments to account for the pledge to halve extreme poverty by 2015, which is 1907 days away. (Extreme poverty is defined as living on less than $1.25 a day and currently affects 1.2 billion people in the world.) The Challenge was inspired by the quote from Micah with which I started this service: “What does the Lord require of you? To act justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.”
In the year 2000 the leaders of the world agreed that extreme poverty could be reduced by 50% within 15 years. The Millennium Declaration (http://www.un.org/millennium/declaration/ares552e.htm ) was adopted by all the governments of the 189 states which form the United Nations. Within that declaration the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) were defined as being specific and measurable targets which would allow this reduction in poverty if achieved.
Those eight MDGs are as follows:
• End Hunger – halve the proportion of people whose income is less than US$1 a day
• Achieve Universal Education – ensure boys and girls everywhere will be able to complete a full course of primary schooling
• Promote Gender Equality – eliminate gender disparity in primary and secondary education
• Reduce Child Mortality – reduce by two-thirds the under-five mortality rate
• Improve Maternal Health – reduce by three quarters the maternal mortality ratio
• Combat HIV/AIDS, Malaria and Other Diseases – halt and reverse the spread of HIV/AIDS, malaria and other major diseases
• Ensure Environmental Sustainability – integrate principles of sustainable development
• Develop a Global Partnership – develop an open, rule-based, predictable, non-discriminating trading and financial system
This is all well and good, you may say, but what has it to do with me? Big international problems need big international solutions. In some ways that is true but actually many changes which have come about in the world in recent decades have happened due to the coming together of ordinary people who believed I what they were doing.
Micah 2010 has two parts to it – words and action. The words part is the global prayer which is based on Nehemiah’s prayer in Chapter 1:5-11 when he fasted and prayed having heard that Jerusalem lay in ruins. It is hoped that 100 million Christians worldwide will pray this prayer, affirming the importance of listening to God, seeking his wisdom, guidance and strength. Churches around the world will speak as one voice. We know that prayer changes things and it also changes us. God has a heart for the poor. We’re told that though Jesus was rich he became poor for our sakes. More than 300 verses in the Bible directly refer to the poor. If the poor matter to God they must matter to those of us who call ourselves Christians. So in a short while we will join our voices to those of the 100 million around the world and pray the global prayer.
When we come to action, we are asked to make the Big Promise together. Hopefully 10 million people will promise to remember the poor in an active way. At the end of this service we will be asked to raise our hands as a sign of making the promise to remember the poor and to remind our leaders of their commitment to alleviate poverty around the world. As well as raising hands, people around the world have been making handprints and sending them to be collected and presented to world leaders. Each of us can look at our own lifestyle and promise to make a change, however small it might be. Perhaps we can buy a new Fair Trade product. Maybe some of our charitable giving can go to an organisation which provides microfinance to help people in the poorer countries of the world to set up in business for themselves, thus taking themselves out of poverty. Maybe we can commit to reducing wasted food (up to 40% of what we buy in the developed world goes to waste) and donate what we save to a charity of our choice. There are vacancies for people who can volunteer their help in all kinds of organisations, including Micah Challenge if anyone has spare time. And of course, we can continue to pray, perhaps focussing on one MDG or on one particular country, making sure we keep informed so that our prayers are specific.
In order to let our leaders know that we are concerned we can get involved in whatever national campaign there may be in our country. Not everyone has the time or inclination to march in protest or attend global summits waving placards. However, all of us here have access to the internet. Super Badger on Facebook and Avaaz, plus national charities, often provide ways to sign petitions online. That takes only minutes of our time but it makes a huge difference to the decisions our leaders take, whether nationally or internationally.
I hope that when this message goes on our blog those reading it will add in the comments many more ideas of what we can do to fulfil this promise to the poor of our world.
It’s not enough to be the recipients of the Good News of the Gospel, unless we are prepared to share it. It’s not enough to feel compassion unless we act with mercy on behalf of the poor. It’s not enough to believe in justice unless we are prepared to speak up for the voiceless. It’s not enough to advocate humility as a virtue unless we are prepared to walk what we talk day by day.
We concluded by watching the Micah 2010 video http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oWzgwCwJGec