UNITED NATIONS--Evangelical Christians from around the world pledged Friday to make governments keep their promises to cut poverty in half by 2015.
Micah Challenge leaders symbollically "cut poverty in half" at ceremony in New York City.
"What we are doing is harnessing the muscle of Christians all over the world to hold our national and global leaders responsible and accountable," said Njongonkulu Ndungane, the Anglican Archbishop of Cape Town, South Africa, in a press briefing at the United Nations sponsored by Micah Challenge.
Nearly 200 nations committed in 2000 to the U.N.'s millennial goals of reducing child mortality, providing for universal primary education, advancing environmental sustainability, promoting gender equality and combating AIDS/HIV.
Global evangelicals formed the Micah Challenge to ensure that these developmental goals are met.
"Government are given by God and have a moral responsibility," said Gary Edmonds, secretary general of the World Evangelical Alliance. "Christians need to hold their governments responsible."
Salil Shetty, campaign director for the U.N.'s Millennial Campaign, said that "development is not charity but a human right."
He said the Micah Challenge "is absolutely essential," and that the millennial goals "cannot be achieved without the churches."
An India national, Shetty said, "We have to rise and hold governments accountable."
After the press briefing, at the Micah Challenge's formal launch, Shetty spoke about politicians who habitually make, but don't keep, declarations at the U.N.
"By time the aircraft touches the ground [in their home country], the politicians have forgotten their promises," he said. "The only way our governments move is when the people hold their feet to the fire."
"We need the moral power" of the Micah challenge, Shetty told the evangelicals at the gathering.
Micah Challenge co-chair Stephen Bradbury said, "All governments have God-given responsibility."
Bradbury, an Australian who teaches at the Bible College of Victoria, said, "God gives all governments one mandate—to respond effectively to the poor."
In his formal address at the U.N.'s Dag Hammarskjold Auditorium, Ndungane said, "Governments and business can say the words, but they need all the encouragement, all the pressure that we can give to deliver the goods."
"They [governments] need to hear that their citizens truly want them to take the hard steps that are required, so that we may live in a world where there is some for all, not all for just some," Ndungane said.
Ndungane, the successor to Archbishop Desmond Tutu, said, "Just imagine how many Christian voices can be mobilized to campaign for justice for the poor, the afflicted, the oppressed."
"The Micah Challenge is here to do that," he said.
Gary Simpson, senior pastor at Concord Baptist Church in Brooklyn, N.Y., said poverty anywhere is a threat to people everywhere.
"The Micah Challenge is the right thing to do," he said. "It has been long overdue."
More than 100 representatives from Christian-based relief and justice organizations attended the launch, including Paul Montecute, director of BWA's Baptist World Aid.
Other Baptist leaders included Doug Balfour, general director of Tearfund, the largest evangelical relief organization in Great Britain with annual revenue of $65 million. A member of London's Ashford Baptist Church, Balfour is considered one of the vision-makers for the Micah Challenge.
Another Baptist leader was Michael Smitheram, the international coordinator for the Micah Challenge and a member of Canberra Baptist Church in Melbourne, Australia.
To symbolize their commitment, evangelical leaders cut a banner with the word "poverty" on it.
Robert Parham is the executive editor of the Baptist Center for Ethics.