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British Church Leaders Urge Bush to Fight Poverty

Leaders of evangelical Christian churches and organizations in the United Kingdom have sent an open letter to the U.S. President, George W Bush, urging him to help alleviate world poverty.

The letter, of which David Coffey, general secretary of the Baptist Union of Great Britain, is a signatory, focuses on the G8 summit taking place in July, calling it “a moment for vision and decisive solutions to global problems.”

“This is a God-given chance to change the course of history for the millions of people who live on less than $1 a day,” the letter reads. “While we acknowledge that there may be key differences between the leaders over some of the policy options currently proposed, we still believe and pray that a comprehensive package of measures resulting in wider debt relief, a significant increase in overall aid flows and an international commitment to trade justice can be agreed by all members of the G8.”

The letter quotes Matthew 25:40—”Jesus said, I tell you the truth whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.” It urges President Bush, “Poverty and injustice go beyond man-made politics and require us to do what is right in God’s eyes. We believe you can lead the way in helping the world’s poor.”

In the letter, the leaders acknowledge steps which the president has already made, such as the recent agreement to cancel the debt of 18 of the world’s poorest countries.

However, it says, “We recognize that now is not the time to rest on what has already been achieved but to build on this work and push forward for a final historic agreement. We pray that God will bless you and the other leaders with vision, wisdom and discernment as you participate in the summit and beyond.”

The letter was signed by Joel Edwards, general director of the Evangelical Alliance, on behalf of other leaders including James Jones, the Bishop of Liverpool.

Edwards said there were two reasons why he felt it was important to write the letter to the American president. “Firstly, there are a significant number of Christians who, for some time, have been working and talking with colleagues in the States, and we recognize the importance of the contribution of the <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = “urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags” />U.S. in the fight against world poverty,” he said.

“Also, George W. Bush, who is a committed Christian, deserves encouragement as much as challenge in his role. He is the most powerful man on the planet and we want to encourage him not just to do, but to accelerate his efforts.”

Speaking about the effectiveness of the letter, Edwards called it part of an “incremental challenge and encouragement” to the U.S.

He agreed that issues of social justice are being taken increasingly seriously by the evangelical community. “Both here and in the States, people are recognizing more and more that salvation is a very big word,” he said. “It encompasses the forgiveness of sin, and also the transformation of society. We see this as an outworking of that.”

Edwards stated that this was not an anti-Bush or anti-American initiative, but an encouragement to a brother in Christ.

It reads, “Because one billion people around the world live on less than $1 a day, and the U.S. government spends less than 1 percent of its budget on fighting global AIDS and poverty, Americans are uniting as one across political and religious divides to support action to overcome the emergency of global AIDS and extreme poverty.”

In the letter, the leaders urge the president to “Help the poorest people of the world fight poverty, disease and hunger at a cost equal to just 1 percent more of the U.S. budget on a clear timetable.”

They also call for the complete cancellation of the debts owed by the poorest countries and a reformation of trade rules so that poor countries can earn sustainable incomes.

The letter concludes: “We urge you to lead an historic deal with other nations to help Africa and the poorest nations overcome global AIDS and extreme poverty. Together as one, we can Make Poverty History this July.”

Ruth Dickinson writes for The Baptist Times, Great Britain‘s only Baptist newspaper, where this story appeared originally. It is used here with permission.