Australian Christians put global poverty deadline on nation’s agenda
Hundreds of Christians from across Australia converged on the nation’s capital this week for an event called “Voices for Justice” that urged politicians to play their part in halving global poverty by 2015.
Voices for Justice is organised annually by Micah Challenge Australia. The Australian campaign is part of a global network inspired by the prophet Micah’s call to “do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God.” (Micah 6:8).
Voices for Justice brings together participants of all ages from major denominations across Australia for worship, training and one-on-one meetings with politicians.
The target for halving global poverty is one of the UN’s Millennium Development Goals. In 2000, Australia and 188 other UN member states committed to meet the goals.
Previous Voices for Justice events contributed to such policy changes as a debt-swap with Indonesia to increase investments in health, water and sanitation through Australia’s aid program.
However, John Beckett, National Coordinator of Micah Challenge Australia, has said that there is more to be done. “Australia is currently giving just 35 cents in every 100 dollars we make as a nation to overseas aid,” he said in a media release. “In a world where more than seven million children die before their fifth birthday each year from preventable causes, we can and should do more.”
Many Australian Christians donate to charity, but Angela Owen, Micah Challenge Australia media and communications coordinator, told ENInews that Christian faith also demands political action. “Government has a biblical role of caring for the poor and needy, and as God’s people, we need to ensure that the poor and vulnerable in our world are protected and cared for,” she said.
“Voices for Justice also comes from other commands in the Bible to speak out on behalf of the poor and the oppressed,” said Angela. “So that’s the basis of why we exist — because we believe that speaking on behalf of the poor is a direct command from God.”
Rebecca Gay, a 16-year-old from rural New South Wales, met with Senator Natasha Waters to discuss Australia’s aid commitment. “I’ve always been passionate about social justice, and this is a really good way to get some experience in advocacy and to put that into action,” Rebecca said.
As 2015 draws closer, Micah Challenge Australia is broadening its campaign from individual grassroots support to engaging churches through its Finish the Race Campaign. With an election due next year, Micah Challenge hopes to keep global poverty on the political agenda.
By Matt Fenwick, Ecumenical News International