Saturday, September 27, 2008

Midnight Sighing

Tell the rich of the midnight sighing of the poor, lest heedlessness lead them into the path of destruction, and deprive them of the Tree of Wealth. To give and to be generous are attributes of Mine; well is it with him that adorneth himself with My virtues.
(Baha'u'llah, The Persian Hidden Words)

In solidarity with my fellow believers in Christ, I wanted to draw attention to a letter recently addressed to the churches in the United States by evangelical leaders around the world:

"August, 2008


As the Church of the Lord in what is known as the "Southern" part of the world, moved by the Holy Spirit to fight for the abundant life that Jesus Christ offers, we address our Christian family in the United States, a Church of the same covenant, faith and love. Grace and Peace to all of our brothers and sisters.

We know your works of love; these works have allowed millions of human beings for many generations in our countries in the South to receive the gospel, the Grace of Jesus Christ and the power of His Salvation. The U.S. church's untiring missionary effort planted in our lands Hope in Him who came to reconcile EVERYTHING.

Nevertheless, the political, social and economic situation in the places where this hope has been announced is increasingly distressing. Millions of people in the global South are dying of hunger, violence and injustice. These situations of poverty and pain are not simply the product of the internal functions of our countries; rather they are the results of the international policies of the governments that wield global power.

Therefore, we have this against you, brothers and sisters, that along with this powerful announcing of the Gospel, the Church from the United States has not also raised its voice in protest against the injustices that powerful governments and institutions are inflicting on the global South - injustices that afflict the lives and ecosystems of millions of people who, centuries after the proclamation of the Gospel, still have not seen the sweat of their brow turned into bread.

The worsening inequality and poverty in the South is alarming. Seven years since the United States and 191 other nations publicly promised to cut extreme global poverty in half by the year 2015 through the eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), your country has made only a little progress towards fulfilling its commitments.

The MDGs should stir us to action because they echo the calls of the biblical prophets for justice and equity. Further, they are achievable and measurable markers on the roadmap to end extreme global poverty.

And so we ask you as sisters and brothers, citizens of the wealthiest most powerful nation on earth, to publicly challenge your candidates and political leaders - now and after the elections are over - to lead the world in the struggle to cut global poverty in half by 2015. If you who know the Truth will not speak for us who will?

The Church in the United States has the opportunity today to be faithful to the Hope that it preaches. We urge you to remember that the Hope to which you were called as a messenger demands that you seek first the Kingdom of God and God's justice.

Out of love for us, the global Church, in holiness, use your citizenship responsibly for the benefit of the entire world; it is for this very reason that the Lord poured out His life on the Cross.

All who have ears, let them hear what the Lord says to His Church." (Learn more about this letter here)

The elimination of extremes of wealth and poverty is a core teaching of the Baha'i Faith and a central part of Baha'i service and activism. Like our fellow believers in Christ, Baha'is recognize that a just economic order is the Will of God and essential to human progress and well-being. A recent statement from the Baha'i International Community put it this way:

"The crisis of global poverty has, at long last, been accorded a high priority on the international agenda. This propitious development has sparked a flurry of discussion and research concerning the means for eradicating this debilitating condition from human life. Yet as renewed pledges for action pour in from governments, as long-held theories and conventional approaches fail to quell long-held prejudices, conflicts, and exploitation, a feeling of rudderlessness looms over the global enterprise of poverty eradication. At the same time, a palpable optimism emerges from the attention and momentum generated by the search for solutions to this worldwide challenge.The mechanisms of poverty eradication have long been defined in primarily material terms. Indeed, the central pillar of the international community’s poverty alleviation efforts has been the transfer of financial resources. Approximately $2.3 trillion have been spent on foreign aid over the last five decades. Tragically, the aid, far from ushering in greater self-sufficiency, has often had a detrimental effect on recipient communities: increased dependency on foreign assistance, subservience to externally dictated priorities, misappropriation of funds and decreased pressure for governance reform. In a resolute push for change, the United Nations has sought to expand the mechanisms for assistance and to galvanize support for poverty alleviation through its Millennium Development Goals. It is now increasingly acknowledged that such conditions as the marginalization of girls and women, poor governance, ethnic and religious antipathy, environmental degradation and unemployment constitute formidable obstacles to the progress and development of communities. These evidence a deeper crisis—one rooted in the values and attitudes that shape relationships at all levels of society. Viewed from this perspective, poverty can be described as the absence of those ethical, social and material resources needed to develop the moral, intellectual and social capacities of individuals, communities and institutions. Moral reasoning, group decision-making and freedom from racism, for example, are all essential tools for poverty alleviation. Such capacities must shape individual thinking as well as institutional arrangements and policy-making. To be clear, the goal at hand is not only to remove the ills of poverty but to engage the masses of humanity in the construction of a just global order." (Read the whole statement by clicking on the link above)