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Off Target

October 18th, 2010 by Thalia Kehoe Rowden

In most of Africa, one in every 13 pregnant women dies in childbirth. In New Zealand it’s one in about 4,000 women.

Around the developing world, ten million kids die before their fifth birthday each year, and a sixth of those die because of diarrhoea from dirty drinking water and the lack of a toilet.

It seems I’ve been pretty lucky to be born here and not there – wherever there might be.

And if my good fortune in surviving my fifth and even thirty-second birthdays is more down to the country I live in than the content of my character, if I don’t deserve to be alive any more than a sick three-year-old in Papua New Guinea deserves to die, then surely I have an obligation to share the benefit of my good fortune with that three-year-old…

In 2000, New Zealand signed up to the United Nations’ Millenium Development Goals – eight simple goals, like reducing infant and maternal mortality, providing universal primary education, reversing the spread of HIV/AIDS and malaria.

And New Zealand, God’s Own Country, agreed to lift overseas aid to 0.7% of Gross National Income. It’s not much, is it. But if every rich country gave 0.7% of its wealth to meet these basic goals of compassion, we could do it. We could halve global poverty. Seven million more pre-schoolers would reach their fifth birthday each year and they’d get to go to school. We’re not talking fast cars and McDonalds, we’re talking clean water and mosquito nets.

But we’re not keeping our word. Over the last three years our overseas aid has gone down, not up, and it’s now at 0.29%, with the Prime Minister admitting that we’re not going to meet the 0.7% we promised by 2015.

James preached today on what his namesake had to say about the relationship between rich and poor. You can listen again to his excellent sermon here, or ponder James chapter 2 again here. I encourage you to let James 2:14-17 stay with you this week as you consider our response to global poverty.

14 What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if people claim to have faith but have no deeds? Can such faith save them? 15 Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. 16 If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? 17 In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.

Below is a copy of the letter I am writing to Prime Minister John Key, and to several other Members of Parliament, to encourage them to keep our word, and to tell them this is an election issue. I’ve decided that parties’ policies on overseas aid will be my number one criterion for choosing who to vote for next year. What about you?

I’ll be posting more info on the MDGs over the next little while. If you’re interested in looking into it further in the meantime, you could start with Micah Challenge, the Christian campaign to urge governments to meet the Millenium Development Goal promises. Their Australian site is also excellent.

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  • 1 Free Range Preaching: Challenge Jan 16, 2011 at 6:07 pm

    […] This has become the catchcry of Christians around the world tackling global poverty and injustice, giving rise to the ‘Micah Challenge;’ we’ve used their resources in our own worship and work for justice at West, particularly concerning the Millenium Development Goals. […]