Archbishop calls for greater co-operation to meet MDGs
Wednesday 24th September 2008On the eve of the United Nations General Assembly meeting on Millennium Development Goals in New York, the Archbishop of Canterbury has underlined the commitment of the Anglican Church to continue to work for the eradication of poverty.
In a video message (full transcript here) the Archbishop has backed calls for a renewal of the pledges made by the international community in 2000, and spoke of the need for the Anglican Church to work in harmony with governments and NGOs around the world in order to achieve the Millennium Development Goals by 2015:
"...much of the work that's being done by the Anglican Church covers very comprehensively the Millennium Development Goals. We want to anchor that work in worldwide co-operation. We want to do that work in synergy with those governments and NGOs who are working for the same end. And we want to let Governments and NGOs know that we are there and we are ready. ....Let this meeting in New York be an occasion where the consciences and the hearts of all are truly touched and changed, turned towards the needs of the poorest, turned towards the recognition that we have it in our hands to make a difference"
The video message follows on from the manifesto that was formally handed to Gordon Brown PM at the conclusion of the Walk of Witness during the Lambeth Conference in July. In the manifesto the bishops of the Anglican Communion urged that:
"When they meet in New York at the United Nations on 25th September, world leaders must find greater political commitment to addressing poverty and inequality. A timetable for achieving the MDGs by 2015 needs to be created. Our leaders need to invest in and strengthen their partnership with the Church worldwide, so that its extensive delivery network for education and health care, alongside other faiths, is fully utilised in the eradication of extreme poverty."
A full transcript follows:
On the 24th of July this year a very large number of bishops from the Anglican Communion worldwide took part in a Walk of Witness in London – from the central Government to Lambeth Palace, the Archbishop's residence. What we were witnessing to was the commitment of the Anglican Communion to the Millennium Development Goals; our willingness as a worldwide family of churches to give of our best in prayer, in work, in sympathy to all those who are working to realize these goals for the good of our common humanity.
Very many of the bishops who were there came from circumstances where this work was already well advanced. And as a family of churches we look with some pride and gratitude at what is already being done. We think of the work for example, that is being done in the Anglican Church in Southern Sudan, an area which has one the lowest rates of enrolment for teachers in the whole world and where the Anglican Church has pioneered and pushed forward recruitment to teaching and the training of teachers.
We might think also of Burundi, where the Anglican Church, and especially the Mothers' Union, is working on yet another post conflict situation to raise awareness of women's issues (especially women who have been traumatised by violence) to raise awareness of domestic violence and to improve female literacy. In Northern Uganda, an area that has been deeply scarred by conflict, poverty and instability in recent years – our church has been working very hard to provide agricultural training. In many countries in Africa, the American based Episcopal Relief and Development team has been distributing mosquito nets - once again tackling at grass roots level the issues of ignorance and disease that so afflict so many.
And again, in many places in the continent, the Mothers' Union continues its work in training traditional birth assistants to improve the prospects of mothers who've just borne children. In other words, much of the work that's being done by the Anglican Church covers very comprehensively the Millennium Development Goals. We want to anchor that work in worldwide co-operation. We want to do that work in synergy with those governments and NGOs who are working for the same end. And we want to let Governments and NGOs know that we are there and we are ready.
In connection with this special session at the United Nations, there are many Anglicans praying and working towards its goals. Here in the United Kingdom we are having a week of events, of reflection and prayer, leading up to this meeting, and a fast has been announced for the 24th of September. The Lambeth Conference did indeed suggest that the Anglican Church worldwide might engage in prayer and fasting around the time of the special session in New York, and I'm aware that as well as what's happening here in the United Kingdom, the Episcopal Church in the United States has called for a day of prayer and fasting on the 25th of September.
In and around the events of the United Nations, my colleague, the Archbishop of York will be alongside our prime minister in launching the 'Education for All' programme. There will be a service in the Cathedral of St John the Divine, and we are sending a number of people to be part of this meeting to show our willingness, our readiness to work alongside all those who care for the flourishing of our humanity.
In the last few decades we've become more and more aware that no one in our human family suffers alone. The suffering and the deprivation is the suffering and deprivation of all, and this basic Christian insight, an insight deeply rooted in the New Testament, is one which drives our concern and our commitment around the Millennium Development Goals - and all other areas where we need to address suffering and poverty. My neighbour's suffering is my suffering, and my neighbour's welfare is my welfare. I can't actually be happy or prosperous in the long run without my neighbour's happiness and prosperity. And once again the New Testament reminds us that when one part of the body rejoices and flourishes, the whole body rejoices and flourishes.
It's with that vision of the Body of Christ in mind that we take up our responsibilities in this area. We know from our experience as Churches that the sufferings, the complications, the controversies and the frustrations of any one Church can affect us all. We know we feel very deeply that the witness and the generosity of one Church can inspire and change us all. I've talked a bit earlier about some of the work that's being done by our brothers and sisters in other countries. And when I think of what is done in Sudan or Uganda or Burundi towards these Millennium Development Goals, I feel there the Church is truly being the Church in a way that helps me – that helps us in the United Kingdom grow that little bit further towards responsibility and generosity in our work.
So as this crucially important meeting opens, I want to ensure all those involved of my prayers and my commitment. On July the 24th here in London we called upon our own government to keep up the pressure worldwide towards the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals, and we had a warm and deeply encouraging response from our own government. We want to take this opportunity to say the same thing to the governments of the whole world on behalf of our worldwide fellowship. Let this meeting in New York be an occasion where the consciences and the hearts of all are truly touched and changed; turned towards the needs of the poorest, turned towards the recognition that we have it in our hands to make a difference. To bring welfare and happiness to our neighbors, and so finally also to ourselves - so that together, as a united human family sharing and loving, we may show on earth something of God's peace and God's love, and send out a message of real hope.
© Rowan Williams