New York City, N.Y.– The international Micah Challenge, a global campaign spearheaded by Christians to halve the world’s poverty levels by 2015, was launched at the United Nations headquarters in New York City, on Friday, Oct. 15, 2004. The campaign, which borrows its name from the Old Testament prophet Micah, is a partnership between the Micah Network, whose alliance represents 267 Christian relief organizations, the World Evangelical Alliance and the Baptist World Alliance.
Holding the ceremony at the UN was very appropriate because it is precisely at the UN that 189 nations signed the Millennium Development Goals (MDG) in 2000, Salil Shetty, Campaign Director of the UN Millennium Campaign pointed out. The MDG, which lists 8 specific goals for halving the world’s poverty by 2015, provides the nucleus of the Micah Challenge; one of the main goals of the campaign is to rally 25 million Christians to support the MDG.
The Millennium Development Goals include eradicating hunger, reducing child mortality, providing universal primary education, empowering women, combating AIDS, improving maternal health, ensuring environmental sustainability, and lastly, developing a global partnership for development.
According to Shetty, “though nations have signed it four years ago, too easily, they forget the promises they made.”
Thus, it is imperative to have the support of Christian organizations worldwide that will put pressure on the governments, Shetty concluded.
“We will not be able to achieve anything without the Christian faith firmly on entrenched on our side,” he said.
Steve Bradbury, Chairman of the Micah Network and National Director of TEAR Australia, agreed with Shetty. The Micah Challenge is a call for “massive grassroots campaign to put pressure on the governments to deliver on those promises that they signed,” he said.
“The Christian faith is pivotal to the success of reaching the MDG. After all, Jesus is the inspiration,” Bradbury added. “It is because of Jesus that we are convinced that every person on this planet are created in the image of God. Injustice is a violation of God’s own being.”
The ceremony for the official launching of the Micah Challenge was held in conjunction with the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty. Speakers urged Christian groups from all over New York City and the world, to endorse the Micah Call.
During the keynote speech, the Most Reverend Anglican Archbishop Njongonkulu Ndungane of South Africa, patron of the Micah Challenge, charged Christians to look at Micah 6:8.
“What does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” Through this one verse, he exclaimed, it is clear what Christians should do.
“I think the divine mandate that we have got is to make a better life for all, and that our Lord Jesus Christ, came in order so that we may have life in all this abundance, and that our God actually created this world and made us stewards of His creation,” he said during the ceremony. In fact, “the generosity of our God demands a response—that we reflect His compassion in this world.”
He contrasted the fact that Europe spends more on ice cream than the cost of clean water for everyone, and the US spends more on cosmetics than the cost of world primary education.
“Surely, we can live with a little less ice cream,” he smiled, to which the attendees all laughed in agreement. “It seems so obvious that we can and should live with less, but we don’t. We need to be in a world where there is some for all, not all for just some.”
The abundance of this age and world is not missed by any of the distinguished speakers. Each touched upon the marked disparity between the haves and the have-nots. The problem is not about whether or not the goals are achievable, but whether or not we care enough to achieve them.
Gary Edmonds, General Secretary of the World Evangelical Alliance asked, “Why would a world evangelical alliance even engage in this mission?” The answer: because “the church of Jesus Christ is to be good news.” And, “people of Jesus Christ must rise to our full calling.”
Following the launch, Shetty described the ease at which such an initiative could be fulfilled.
“It’s not a financial issue. The question of can this be done is no longer at issue. We have to remind our political leaders to do what they promised,” Shetty said at the press conference. He described the amount of money needed to reach MDG goals by saying, “It’s peanuts in the world account.” Similarly, Edmonds said, “This is a moral issue.”
National Micah Challenge initiatives will be launched in dozens of countries in coming weeks. For more information on the Micah Challenge or to show your support for the campaign, visit www.micahchallenge.org.