Why Aren't North American Baptists Calling for Justice at G-8 Meeting?


A British Baptist churchman has an urgent message for G-8 leaders when they begin meeting on Wednesday in Germany.

"As the clock ticks, peoples' lives are lost. The world can't wait: the G8 must deliver on their promises and take decisive action."

 

Stephen Rand, a leader of Wimbledon's Kairos Baptist Church and co-chair of the Jubilee Debt Campaign, told the UK Baptist Times: "Two years ago, world leaders were given a huge global mandate to make poverty history. But they haven't acted urgently enough. Only 22 out of the 40 countries promised debt cancellation have received it, and up to 60 more are not even being considered."

 

The G-8 nations include Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States. Heads of these states  meet June 6-8 in Heiligendamm, Germany.

 

Two groups of German protestors--those committed to non-violence and those who used violence--marched Sunday against the globalization agenda of industrial powers, which have moved too slowly on eliminating poverty and addressing climate change.

 

Associated Press reported that the location for the summit had "a seven-mile-long fence topped with barbed wire" to keep disorderly marchers at bay.

 

In London, BMS World Mission, the oldest Baptist mission society, supported a worship service and prayer walk on Saturday ending at a rally organized under the banner "The World Can't Wait."

 

Thousands of peaceful marchers wore white and blew whistles, signaling that the global community was at the halfway time mark toward its pledge to halve poverty by 2015.

 

BMS has a long history of working for justice causes, including efforts to end the slave trade, oppose colonialism in the 1960s and currently support the Micah Challenge to alleviate global poverty.

 

In a two-part BMS podcast interview with its regional secretary for Africa about the G-8 summit and social justice, Andrew North encouraged British Christians "to look at our own lifestyles" and understand that "everyday decisions we make actually impact the world."

 

North said global aid money to Africa should be focused on local communities, not governments, pointing out that African and G-8 governments that have their own agendas.

 

"Most of the riches … of African are also the places of the most instability, and that is driven by greed, not only by the western world, but also by the African leaders," he said.

 

Noting the voiceless nature of most Africans, North said, "I think one of the huge possibilities of BMS will be to actually start making political noise in this country" on behalf of the poor, questioning the decisions of the British government.

 

In a special report, Christian Aid, an agency of churches in the United Kingdom and Ireland, said the G-8 largely delivered on its debt cancellation promises but has not keep its promises related to global aid.

 

Unless the G-8 act to stabilize greenhouse gases to limit global warming, Christian Aid said, between 150 million and 550 million more people will suffer from hunger due to droughts and lower crop yields.

 

The G-8 nations, the report said, account for 15 percent of the world's population but contribute 50 percent of the world's greenhouse emissions.

 

Christian Aid also urged G-8 countries to give poor countries more flexibility in running their economies.

 

The Baptist Union of Great Britain, Baptist Union of Scotland and Baptist Union of Wales are all members of Christian Aid.

 

Given the level of involvement for social justice among British Baptists focused on the G-8 summit, one wonders where the voices of North American Baptists for global justice are.

 

Where are the convention and fellowship leaders urging the U.S. and Canadian governments to address meaningfully global warming and poverty?

 

Too many Baptists in the U.S. seem more obsessed with debating private prayer language and worship styles, more concerned about a purpose-driven life, more determined to preserve prevailing tax systems that protect the wealthy, more focused on the political choices of multiple-divorced presidential candidates versus a Mormon one.

 

What did Amos say about religious leaders who talked up religion and neglected justice?

 

"I hate, I despise your feasts, and I take no delight in your solemn assemblies. Even though you offer me your burnt offerings and cereal offerings, I will not accept them …. Take away from me the noise of your songs; to the melody of your harps I will not listen," said the Hebrew prophet Amos, speaking for God. "But let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream" (Amos 5:21-24).

 

"Seek good, and not evil…. Hate evil, and love good, and establish justice in the gate," he said (Amos 5:14-15).

 

The call for justice for the poor and powerless is at the heart of the biblical witness.

 

Some North American Baptists are renewing the pursuit of justice, recalling Amos' cry. Others are planning a justice centered gathering in 2008.

 

Between now and then, the message of a British Baptist sits in judgment on North American Baptists: "As the clock ticks, peoples' lives are lost. The world can't wait."

 

Will goodwill Baptists of North America speak up this week to the president or to the prime minister, supporting real social justice for the marginalized?

 

Robert Parham is executive director of the Baptist Center for Ethics.

 

 

 

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