A participant in the Walk to Witness in London last July holds up a sign urging governments to “Keep the Promise” to halve poverty by 2015 as part of the UN’s Millennium Development Goals.
Anglicans will gather in Ottawa and New York on Thursday, Sept. 25, to renew their call for governments around the world to demonstrate their commitment to end global poverty and other social justice priorities outlined by the United Nations Millennium Development goals (MDGs).
The events are being held to coincide with a special UN General Assembly meeting on the MDGs in New York.
In Ottawa, the primate of the Anglican Church of Canada, Archbishop Fred Hiltz, and Bishop Susan Johnson, national bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada (ELCIC), will lead an ecumenical event, Walk of Witness – Bringing it Home, to urge the Canadian government to make good its promise to end poverty “at home and around the world.”
The event will include worship at Christ Church Cathedral, a public walk, and an “Act of Witness” at the UN Association Office.
In New York, the Church of England’s Archbishop of York, John Sentamu, will join the presiding bishop of The Episcopal Church, Katharine Jefferts Schori, and the Anglican Observer to the U.N., Hellen Wangusa, in a “Walk and Prayerful Witness” in mid-town Manhattan that will end at Dag Hammarskjold Plaza, just north of the U.N.
A rally and “teach-in” follows on the steps of the Cathedral of St. John the Divine, and later, a “service of recommitment and witness of the achievement of the MDGs.” Archbishop Sentamu will preach at the service that will be officiated by Bishop Jefferts Schori.
The events in Ottawa and New York replicate the Walk to Witness last July, where Anglican bishops from around the world took a day from their Lambeth Conference to march through the streets of central London to dramatize their commitment to the MDGs and to pressure governments to fulfill their promises, among them, to halve global poverty by 2015.
At that event, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown had urged about 1,300 bishops, faith leaders and other Lambeth Conference participants to “ask your governments…ask all of civil society, to tell people that on Sept. 25th, we have got to make good the promises that have been made, redeem the pledges that have been promised, make good the Millennium Development Goals that are not being met.”
Ahead of Thursday’s march, Archbishop Hiltz and Bishop Johnson sent a letter to Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper asking him to restate his government’s support for the MDGs and expressing regret that he has chosen not to attend the UN special session.
“We are sorry to hear that you will not personally be joining other world leaders at the United Nations in New York to re-energize the world’s commitment to the (MDGs)…,” the two church leaders said. “However, we anticipate that you will do all in your power to demonstrate Canada’s commitment to poverty eradication at home and around the world.”
The eight MDGs are: eradicate extreme poverty and hunger, achieve universal primary education, promote gender equality and empower women, reduce child mortality, improve maternal health, combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases; ensure environmental sustainability, and develop a global partnership for development.
Archbishop Hiltz and Bishop Johnson said that during this federal election, their churches are encouraging the faithful to promote the implementation of Bill C-293 as a way of strengthening Canada’s contribution to the UN’s eight MDGs.
They urged Mr. Harper to “make visible your commitment to Bill C-293” which was passed in March 2007 and which “commits Canada to increase aid, improve trade rules that will allow poor countries to protect small farmers and staple crops, cancel crippling debts of the poorest countries, and end child poverty in Canada.”
A copy of the letter was also sent to leaders of Canada’s other political parties.