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The Micah Challenge – a statement endorses by the Synod of the CRCA in May ’06. Preamble The Micah Network is a coalition of evangelical churches and agencies from around the world committed to integral mission. During this consultation, we have entered a process of dialogue designed so that we may hear from the Word of God and reflect together on how it speaks to us in an increasingly globalized world in which the poor, while promised more, find themselves economically and socially marginalised and culturally impoverished. Over 1 billion people suffer the daily violence of absolute poverty. This violence shortens and degrades their lives. Children form the majority of this group and are particularly vulnerable. Some 30,000 die every day from hunger and preventable disease, an outrageous fact that receives much less media and political attention than terrorism. In response to this outrage, we acknowledge that we in the Church have done too little about addressing the plight of the poor. We have dedicated our time at this conference to discussing appropriate responses. What is Globalisation? Globalisation has come to mean different things in different contexts: 1. In its first and most basic sense it refers to those sociological processes that disconnect human activities from their local settings and reconnect them across national borders. The growth of information and communication technologies lies behind these processes. 2. Secondly, globalisation refers to the emergence of a global civil society alongside the nation-state system, comprising trans-national actors of many different kinds and with varying degrees of global influence. 3. Thirdly, it refers to the global economic system, that is, the neo-liberal project of a single, global market in which all barriers to trade and capital flows are removed. This is a political ideology, actively promoted by what has come to be called the ‘Washington Consensus’ and opposed by those who are misleadingly referred to in the global media as ‘anti-globalisation’ activists. Globalisation, as understood in the first two senses, demonstrates the biblical truth that we are bound together as one human family in mutual dependencies. On the other hand, it heightens human fallenness and our propensity to idolatry and fragmentation. Globalisation divides as much as it unites. The new technologies that lie at the heart of globalizing processes are not inherently exploitative. They offer unprecedented opportunities for resisting oppressive regimes, exposing injustice, dispelling ignorance and treating disease. Globalisation also has the potential to encourage genuine dialogue across cultures. No cultural, religious or ethnic group can shut itself off from others. However, given the huge inequalities of economic power between cultures and the control of the global media by a handful of giant corporations, the tendency is for the more powerful cultural images, icons and practices to dominate the less powerful in a largely one-way traffic. The Consultation has focussed primarily on the third form of globalisation because of its negative impact on the poor. The Global Economic System It is a common assumption that the integration of local economies into the global market system automatically leads to economic progress – that it benefits the industrialised as well as the “developing countries”, the consumers as well as the producers, by fostering healthy competition, spreading technological knowledge and raising productivity and living standards everywhere. Such integration involves the removal of barriers to the free flow of goods and capital, limiting the role of governments and thus reducing corruption, stagnation, and bureaucracy – the evils that have hindered the growth of “developing economies.” This orthodox recipe for economic growth through the free market is promoted by the G8 nations, and enforced by international financial institutions such as the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, and the World Trade Organization. It is proposed as the solution to worldwide poverty – if faithfully applied, all poor countries will eventually become a part of the “First World” and their people experience the freedom and prosperity of a consumer society. There is plenty of evidence, however, to demonstrate that such assumptions cannot be taken for granted. As a matter of historical fact, not a single country has achieved Northern status via the economic path proposed above. Even today, the rich countries consistently use tariff protection and employ their political and military muscle to promote their businesses abroad. They heavily subsidise their agricultural products, thus depressing prices and destroying the livelihoods of farmers in poor nations. Unrestricted financial flows, far from encouraging economic growth, only de- stabilise societies. The present global system is built on false assumptions and immoral double standards. Instead of reducing poverty, it is the main contributor to the extension and deepening of this major scourge. Indeed, a major effect is the emergence of a trans-national aristocracy of materially wealthy and politically powerful people over against increasing masses of poor people unable to satisfy their basic needs. The widening gap not only between rich and poor countries but also between the rich and the poor within countries, including those belonging to the North, clearly shows that the present economic system primarily benefits a rich minority but often traps the poor majority in their poverty. Market fundamentalism, which asserts the irrelevance of nation states and fosters economic imperialism, is a very serious threat, not only to the survival of the poor, but also to open societies everywhere. A Biblical Vision The starting point for a Christian response is to acknowledge with utter seriousness that our life and mission is rooted in the Gospel – the good news of the Lordship of Jesus Christ. As followers of Christ we must challenge that which lies at the heart of contemporary economic globalisation, namely the idolatry of Mammon. Resistance to the pressures of the consumer society – a society built on false assumptions and distorted values – is not optional. The problems that global capitalism poses are not merely, nor even primarily, economic or technical, but moral and spiritual. The struggle to which we are called cannot be faced with mere human strength, since “our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against rulers, against authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms” (Eph 6:12). We need to heed Paul’s exhortation “to be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power” and “to put on the full armour of God” consisting of “the belt of truth, the breastplate of justice, the gospel of peace, the shield of faith, the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, and prayer in the Spirit” (Eph 6:10-18). Human beings have been entrusted with stewardship of what belongs fundamentally to God. “The earth is the Lord’s and all that is in it, the world, and those who live in it” (Ps 24:1; cf Ps 89:11). Thus when ancient Israel was given the land of promise (a paradigm of the human inheritance of the earth), they were told, “The land [the basic means of production] shall not be sold in perpetuity, for the land is mine; with me you are but aliens and tenants” (Lev 25:23; also Ex 19:5; Ezek 46:18). The requirements of human survival take precedence over an individual’s right to his property (e.g., Deut 24:19-22). Neither governments nor multinational corporations are the owners of the earth’s natural resources. God holds them responsible for the development of those resources for the sake of all human beings who share the planet; and for the exercise of that development in a manner that respects the integrity of his creation. The tyranny of economics and the encroachment of ‘market thinking’ on every sphere of human life erodes our moral vocabularies, undermines human dignity and the legitimacy of the market itself. Here we are engaged in a moral and spiritual battle against idolatry. Tragically, however, Christians have often been shaped more by these economic and political ideologies than by the Gospel we claim to profess. We note, with sadness and shame, that Christian politicians and economists and corporate executives are often lacking in spiritual discernment and a biblical world-view, and thus become complicit in social, economic and political structures that perpetuate idolatry and injustice. We must not conform to the idols of this age but be truly transformed by the renewal of our minds through the Word and Spirit of God (Rom 12:1-3). Seeking Alternatives We believe that it is necessary in our ministries to increase our advocacy work on behalf of the poor. This must involve denouncing the ‘social costs of the globalisation process in the local, national and global contexts. However, we cannot and must not stop there but rather provide viable alternatives. We commit ourselves to challenging this trend through grass-roots work and advocacy at all levels. We make the following specific challenges to the Church and ourselves: $ We must redirect the global economy and the processes of globalisation towards the kingdom of God. The recovery of politics and political education is central to this task. We must educate Christians regarding the importance of strengthening democracy both within their nations and across nations. The lack of political will on the part of wealthy nations to reform global financial institutions and to reshape the global economy so that the benefits of globalisation are more equitably distributed can only be countered by a trans-national mobilisation of grass-roots movements from below. Christian theologians, pastors, economists, business people, journalists, artists and lawyers and other professionals need to come together with the poor to claim the rights of the marginalised and the vulnerable. $ We Christians and Churches around the world must change our patterns of consumption. We cannot ignore the links between our consumption and the social and environmental costs that they impose. Our stewardship extends to considerations of the manner in which the goods and services that we consume are produced – we must assume responsibility for the costs of our lifestyles. $ We in the local service agencies must facilitate the development of useful local content if new information and communication technologies are to benefit the poor. New technologies can only be useful to the poor if they respond to their needs, fit their culture and provide the information that they require. (For example, what information in an easily accessible form is actually available on the Internet to poor farmers?) $ We Christians, as a truly global community, should seek to provide the services of lawyers and economists free of charge to poor nations to secure fair terms of trade at World Trade Organization meetings. They should press for stronger social and environmental clauses, compensation for vulnerable communities severely affected by WTO decisions, and for effective mechanisms that will prevent bullying and evasion by the powerful nations. $ We reaffirm the urgent task to speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves and enable the poor to speak for themselves. We commit ourselves as a Network to work together to campaign against the causes and expressions of poverty, injustice, violence, war and corruption at local, national and international levels. To that end we call on governments around the world: 1. To fully deliver on promises to cancel the unrepayable debts of the world’s poorest nations; 2. To return money transferred by corrupt rulers to private accounts in offshore banks to the nations that they have robbed; 3. To reform the international banking system so that the status of offshore tax havens be withdrawn; 4. To require that corporations fully disclose payments to foreign governments in the contract tendering process; 5. To support institutions which promote transparency and accountability, particularly the International Criminal Court that holds governments and armies accountable for genocide and other crimes against humanity; 6. To fully fund those UN agencies that work trans-nationally to protect refugees and to promote human rights and the protection of the biosphere. Debt servicing, corruption and tax evasion are principal contributors to the outflow of resources from the South. Corruption in poor nations would not be possible without the tacit support and often-active involvement of rich corporations, banks and governments in the North. For every bribe taken, there is a bribe offered. The primary political challenge is to ensure that national and trans-national actors – especially global financial institutions and business corporations which wield immense influence on a global stage – are transparent in their operations and held accountable to those whose lives they impact. International governance mechanisms are needed if global trade and capital flows are to serve norms of justice. Invitation to the Churches We confess that Mammon has at times distorted our own lifestyles, both individually and in the churches to which many of us belong. We repent of this. In our lifestyles and consumer choices we must demonstrate concern for justice and responsible stewardship. We also acknowledge that even in our weakness we are called to the prophetic task of insisting that the world’s leaders fulfil the mandate God has given them to care for the poor. In the words of the Psalmist, we should urge all governments to implement policies that “give justice to the weak and… maintain the right of the lowly and the destitute”. This must be part of their core business, yet so rarely is, and we repeat the Psalmist’s question with all the urgency we can muster, “how long will you judge unjustly and show partiality to the wicked?” (Ps 82:2). As a global Christian community we have both a historic opportunity and a biblical imperative to eradicate the great evil of absolute poverty in our day. The churches, often the most invisible but also the most effective transformation agents in local situations, still have no effective, unified global voice on the subject of poverty. At a time when governments are talking of listening to civil society in the South and appreciating faith-based initiatives, it is time to find our global voice and challenge the world’s decision-makers by offering a biblically informed alternative to the current discourse of globalisation. By capturing the imagination and theology of Christians worldwide, we could see God move in ways we cannot as yet envisage. The prophet Micah’s vision of “every man sitting under his own vine and under his fig tree” (Micah 4:4) suggests that whatever development we do has to have “rootedness”, drawing on knowledge and resources from within the life-system of a people. To be truly global is to be truly local. To be sustainable, development efforts must have culture-fit. To be truly part of the life of the world, we are to immerse ourselves incarnationally in the life-stories of our own people. Global poverty reduction will not be achieved without a “spiritual engine”. Most of the significant social movements in history have had a strong spiritual foundation. Without that spiritual vision and motivation, without that moral authority, we will not break the hold of poverty on the world’s poorest people. This is our task, this is our vocation. Hear the voice of the prophet Micah saying, don’t be tempted by military and economic might, but instead “do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with your God.” The Micah Challenge Mobilising Christians Against Poverty. Vision The World Evangelical Alliance (WEA) and the Micah Network are facilitating a global campaign to mobilise Christians against poverty. The campaign aims to deepen Christian engagement with the poor and to influence leaders of rich and poor nations to fulfil their public promise to achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), and so halve absolute global poverty by 2015. All 191-member states of the United Nations have promised to achieve the Millennium Development Goals by 2015. The Goals include measurable, time-bound targets addressing poverty and hunger, education, maternal and child health, the prevalence of diseases, including HIV/AIDs, gender equality, the environment, debt, trade justice and aid. The goals are achievable, but not by ‘business as usual’. Informing and involving civil society is critical to ensuring that governments keep these promises. The measures of success for the campaign will be policy change and participation by Christians in the campaign. Progress towards the achievement of the MDG is being carefully benchmarked and tracked by the United Nations Development Programme, while the contribution made by Christians will be indicated by a register of churches, organizations and individuals who have signed the Micah Call and participated in advocacy activities. The campaign will also raise awareness of, and track improvements in, direct contributions by Christian organizations towards achievement of the MDG. Time The Micah Challenge will be launched globally on 15 October 2004 in conjunction with the UN ceremony for the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty. 2004 will see the formation of the first group of approximately eleven National Campaigns. 2005 will include release of educational materials and participation in advocacy focussed on events including the G8 and the UN Heads of State Summit. A further 15 national campaigns will be launched in 2005-2006. An annual global Micah Challenge Sunday will commence in 2005. Advocacy Objectives The advocacy objectives for the campaign will reflect both a prophetic tradition (the tradition of speaking out for and with the poor that is deeply ingrained in the Bible), and the long experience of Christian organizations and churches working in partnership with poor communities. They will also be framed to link with broader civil society campaigns, particularly those focussed on the MDG. The Micah Challenge is a foothold for a movement of Christians that will go beyond the MDG’s agenda, but it sees the MDG as a well-shaped tool and seeks to make a powerful contribution to their achievement. The focus for civil society in the North is likely to be advocacy for the structural changes included under Goal 8 of the MDG. Work on some of these has begun, most particularly the successful work of the Jubilee 2000 and subsequent debt and trade justice campaigns. In the South, advocacy will also focus on empowering the poor to play a greater role in shaping national planning to alleviate hunger, water and sanitation deficits, disease, illiteracy, gender inequality and environmental destruction. The Micah Challenge will bring together knowledge experts, leaders and Christian communities to frame global advocacy objectives and specific national and regional objectives. High quality, in-language materials will be developed, particularly in response to the needs of local churches, who are seen as the primary focus and driver for the campaign. Organization The Council for the Micah Challenge has ten members drawn from the leadership of Evangelical Alliances and Christian relief and development agencies from around the world. The joint chairs are Gary Edmonds, Secretary of WEA, and Stephen Bradbury, Chair of the Micah Network and National Director of Tear Australia. The Council has appointed Michael Smitheram as International Coordinator for the campaign and have asked Tear Fund UK to house the International Coordination Office. Background The Micah Challenge is a joint project of the Micah Network and the World Evangelical Alliance and is inspired by landmark statements reached by both of these organizations in 2001. The Micah Network brings together more than 270 Christian organizations providing relief, development and justice ministries throughout the world. The majority are community development agencies in the South. The Micah Network aims to: $ Strengthen the capacity of participating agencies to make a biblically-shaped response to the needs of the poor and oppressed; $ Speak strongly and effectively regarding the nature of the mission of the Church to proclaim and demonstrate the love of Christ to a world in need; $ Prophetically influence the leaders and decision-makers of societies to maintain the rights of the poor and oppressed and rescue the weak and needy. The Micah Network’s first International Consultation in Oxford in September 2001 developed the Declaration on Integral Mission. The Declaration sets out the biblical basis for the Micah Challenge. A key excerpt reads: “Integral mission or holistic transformation is the proclamation and demonstration of the gospel. It is not simply that evangelism and social involvement are to be done alongside each other. Rather, in integral mission our proclamation has social consequences as we call people to love and repentance in all areas of life. And our social involvement has evangelistic consequences as we bear witness to the transforming grace of Jesus Christ. If we ignore the world we betray the Word of God, which sends us out to serve the world. If we ignore the Word of God we have nothing to bring to the world. Justice and justification by faith, worship and political action, the spiritual and the material, personal change and structural change belong together. As in the life of Jesus, being, doing and saying are at the heart of our integral task.” The World Evangelical Alliance was founded in 1951 and now embraces about 3 million local churches in 111 countries. In structural terms, the WEA is a global network of 120 national and regional evangelical church alliances, 104 organisational ministries and 6 specialised ministries serving the worldwide church. The General Assembly of 2001 reached the following resolution, which also provides a cornerstone for the Micah Challenge: “As a global Christian community seeking to live in obedience to Scripture, we recognise the challenge of poverty across God’s world. We welcome the international initiative to halve world poverty by 2015, and pledge ourselves to do all we can, through our organizations and churches, to back this with prayerful, practical action in our nations and communities. We believe … if the poverty targets are to be met: $ There needs to be a commitment to achieve growing justice in world trade in the light of globalisation; this must recognise the role of trade, particularly in arms, that fuels conflict and causes widespread poverty and suffering; $ It is vital that a new deal on international debt is agreed by the G7 leaders as a matter of urgency and carried through by the International Monetary Fund and World Bank … we urge governments and financial institutions of both North and South to act decisively, transparently and with integrity to combat corruption … taking the necessary steps to break the chains of debt and give a new start to the world’s poorest nations.” Summary The Micah Challenge will bring a prophetic, powerful voice for and with the poor to global efforts to achieve the Millennium Development Goals, and will empower ongoing church engagement with civil society and government on issues affecting the poor. Millennium Development Goals (MDG) The goals and targets are based on the UN Millennium Declaration. Goal 1: Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger. Target 1: Halve, between 1990 and 2015, the proportion of people whose income is less than one dollar a day. Target 2: Halve, between 1990 and 2015, the proportion of people who suffer from hunger. Goal 2: Achieve universal primary education. Target 3: Ensure that, by 2015, children everywhere, boys and girls alike, will be able to complete a full course of primary schooling. Goal 3: Promote gender equality and empower women. Target 4: Eliminate gender disparity in primary and secondary education, preferably by 2005, and to all levels of education no later than 2015. Goal 4: Reduce child mortality. Target 5: Reduce by two-thirds, between 1990 and 2015, the under-five mortality rate. Goal 5: Improve maternal health. Target 6: Reduce by three-quarters, between 1990 and 2015, the maternal mortality ratio. Goal 6: Combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases. Target 7: Have halted by 2015 and begun to reverse the spread of HIV/AIDS. Target 8: Have halted by 2015 and begun to reverse the incidence of malaria and other major diseases. Goal 7: Ensure environmental sustainability. Target 9: Integrate the principles of sustainable development into country policies and programmes and reverse the loss of environmental resources. Target 10: Halve, by 2015, the proportion of people without sustainable access to safe drinking water. Target 11: By 2020, to have achieved a significant improvement in the lives of at least 100 million slum dwellers. Goal 8: Develop a Global Partnership for Development. Target 12: Develop further an open, rule-based, predictable, non-discriminatory trading and financial system [includes a commitment to good governance, development, and poverty reduction – both nationally and internationally]. Target 13: Address the Special Needs of the Least Developed Countries (LDC) [includes: tariff and quota free access for LDC exports; enhanced programme of debt relief for HIPC and cancellation of official bilateral debt; and more generous ODA (Overseas Development Assistance) for countries committed to poverty reduction]. Target 14: Address the Special Needs of landlocked countries and small island developing States (through the Programme of Action for the Sustainable Development of Small Island Developing States and the outcome of the 22nd special session of the General Assembly). Target 15: Deal comprehensively with the debt problems of developing countries through national and international measures in order to make debt sustainable in the long term. Target 16: In cooperation with developing countries, develop and implement strategies for decent and productive work for youth. Target 17: In cooperation with pharmaceutical companies, provide access to affordable, essential drugs in developing countries. Target 18: In cooperation with the private sector, make available the benefits of new technologies, especially information and communications.
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