NEW YORK – Thousands gathered in New York City’s Times Square on Sunday night to "Stand Up" with the New Year’s Eve crystal ball and set a world record against poverty and hunger.
"We stand here proudly; we cannot stay seated when tens of thousands of people die of poverty every day," the crowd recited as the Times Square ball made its first-ever appearance outside of New Year’s Eve. "We wish to set a record today for the largest number of people standing up to demand action on poverty."
The Times Square rally, coordinated by the UN Millennium Campaign, kicked-off a daylong effort to set an official Guinness World Record on the number of people standing up against poverty and for the Millennium Development Goals. More than 500 "Stand Up" events in over 50 countries are set to take place within the 24-hour time frame ending at 4:00 p.m. EDT today.
According to Micah Challenge, an evangelical anti-poverty group initiated by the World Evangelical Alliance and Micah Network, dozens of those events were held in conjunction to Micah Sunday – an annual effort to mobilize churches and Christians against poverty through unified gestures.
"Christ taught us that finding justice takes passion and persistence," said Michael Smitheram, the International Director for Micah Challenge. "Each year Micah Sunday shows political leaders that Christians are passionate and persistent about achieving the Millennium Development Goals."
Meanwhile at Times Square, Christian anti-poverty group Bread For the World echoed the message that Christians and non-Christians alike can come together for the common goal of ending poverty and hunger.
"We stand unified here tonight on behalf of 852 million people worldwide who will suffer from hunger and under-nutrition today," said Derrick Boykin of Bread for the World. "We stand on behalf of the 2.7 billion people who live on less than two dollars a day."
The Northeast organizer for Bread for the World also challenged policy makers to keep their promises and expand legislation on poverty relief and appropriate five billion dollars toward poverty-focused development assistance.
"Our cry is to our nation’s leaders, that they will stand with us, not only in word but in deed," Boykin said. "Congressional leaders, will you stand with us? Mr. President, will you stand with us?"
The audience cried out a similar message by the night’s end as they repeated a statement prepared by the UN Millennium Campaign.
"We know that in our names, great world leaders have made mighty promises to bring [extreme poverty] to an end," the audience declared. "We stand here today to tell them we expect them to keep these promises."
The official results announcement of the Guinness World Record will be made on October 17 – the United Nations International Day for the Eradication of Poverty.