Rolf Nikel of the Office of the German Chancellor, and the head of the World Evangelical Alliance (WEA), Geoff Tunnicliffe, have concluded a meeting in Berlin this week, by agreeing to meet annually to discuss issues of extreme concern to Christians such as poverty, climate change and religious liberty.
The annual meeting will also give the WEA and the German Government the opportunity to exchange views on the response of world governments to those concerns.
“There is a new strong evangelical voice coming from around the world, committed to helping and working in partnership with governments,” said Tunnicliffe, who represents around 430 million Christians worldwide. “The poor are our mandate as well and we are saying to our churches ‘what are you going to do to deepen your commitment to help and to serve?’”
During Monday’s meeting, Tunnicliffe shared his concerns for Darfur and international climate change policy ahead of this week’s G8 summit in Heiligendamm, northern Germany.
He urged the German Government to do everything in its power to secure a robust international response to the current humanitarian crisis in Darfur. The conflict there between government forces and rebel groups has left more than 200,000 people dead and another two million displaced from their homes since 2003, according to UN estimates.
“How many more people have to die before we see significant action?” asked Tunnicliffe.
During the meeting, Nikel was handed a proposal from Micah Challenge outlining a strategy to meet the promise of G8 leaders in 2005 to help vulnerable countries adapt to the impact of climate change.
Micah Challenge is a global movement of Christian organisations, churches and leaders working to ensure the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) to halve extreme poverty are delivered by 2015.
Its proposal to the German Chancellor’s Office on Monday called on the G8 nations to help the most vulnerable African governments assess the impact of climate change on their countries, allowing them to combine adaptation measures with their poverty reduction strategies by 2010.
“We don’t want to protest. We want to bring a voice of concern,” Tunnicliffe assured Nikel. “We know the pressure is on governments but we also want you to know that there is a strong Christian community in the world that is very concerned about these issues and that you have our support and encouragement.”
Nikel said that Chancellor Merkel was working “to the very last moment” to secure a climate change agreement at the G8 and revealed that Germany had just increased the level of its assistance to developing countries to $750 million USD a year.
He was then presented with thousands of letters handwritten by children in Peru outlining their own concerns over poverty to Chancellor Merkel. The letters were gathered by Micah Challenge in Peru to remind the German Government that any decisions it and other G8 governments make in Heiligendamm will have a real impact on those at the grassroots level, particularly children who are depending on their help for a future of opportunity rather than poverty.
The WEA head then shared the vision of Micah Challenge further, outlining the campaign’s two-tier strategy to deepen Christian commitment to the world’s poor and strengthen advocacy to encourage governments to keep the promises they made when they signed up to the MDGs.
“It’s not up to governments only. The churches also have a responsibility to partner with governments in response to the MDGs,” affirmed Tunnicliffe. He added that as part of the Micah Challenge, southern hemisphere countries were making their own contributions to the fulfilment of the MDGs by focusing on the development of good governance and anti-corruption strategies.