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Hoosier Musings on the Road to Emmaus

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Millennium Development Goals

In 2002, 189 United Nations members (including the United States) and more than two dozen international organizations agreed to a set of eight international development goals that they hoped to achieve by the year 2015. They include cutting extreme poverty in half, reducing child mortality rates, fighting disease epidemics such as AIDS, and developing a global partnership for development. These countries agreed, among other efforts, to devote 0.7% of their annual income to programs that would help accomplish these goals.

We're about at the midpoint in that timeline; how do things stand today? Unfortunately, we have not made the hoped-for progress. The aggregate aid budget of the most developed nations amounts to 0.28% of their gross national income, woefully below the target of 0.7%. According to the New York Times, only Sweden, Norway, the Netherlands, Luxembourg and Denmark currently meet the target. Canada's overseas aid amounts to 0.28% of its income. Japan's aid is 0.17%. Sadly, the United States is at the bottom of the list, spending just 0.16% of its income on development assistance.

How can we help with such overwhelming needs? What can we do? As an Episcopal priest, I would point out that an answer can be found in the catechism (Book of Common Prayer, p. 855): in our duty as Christians "to work, pray and give for the spread of God's kingdom."

  • First, we can pray. We can hold in prayer before God the needs we see around us, every day, and ask for guidance in dealing with them.
  • Secondly, we can work. Be informed: read, learn, and ask questions. Write a letter to someone in power about your concerns about poverty. Shop ethically: check the source and background of goods and services you buy, and purchase Fair Trade goods where possible. Volunteer your time for organizations working to eradicate poverty.
  • And thirdly, we can give: donate money to and/or raise funds for anti-poverty organizations. These can be local, like a food bank or job training program. They can also be national or international, like Episcopal Relief & Development, Oxfam, UNICEF, or WorldVision.
To those who don't think this sounds like "the spread of God's Kingdom" -- who think the MDG's are too worldly, coming out of the United Nations and all-- I would direct you to the Gospel of Matthew:

"When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on the throne of his glory. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, and he will put the sheep at his right hand and the goats at the left. Then the king will say to those at his right hand, "Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.'

Then the righteous will answer him, "Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?' And the king will answer them, "Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.'


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