Before the COVID-19 pandemic, significant progress had been made to alleviate poverty.
In the first two decades of the millennium, global poverty rates had been cut by more than half and there was good reason to be optimistic about the future.
The optimism spurred world nations to come together in 2015 and agree to work towards an ambitious set of Sustainable Development Goals. Number one on the list: eradicating extreme poverty for all people everywhere by 2030.
The pandemic plus rising inflation and the impacts of the invasion of Ukraine have set progress back as much as nine years in many low-income countries.
Despite the United Nations declaring a “Decade of Action” to accelerate progress and get back on track, efforts to end poverty are not yet advancing at the speed or scale required to meet the goal.
Where do we Christians fit in to this and what can we do?
At the turn of the millennium, Christians were at the forefront of anti-poverty movements like Make Poverty History, Jubilee 2000 and Micah Challenge (now Micah Australia).
In Australia, activism has continued through the years, with Christian groups lobbying successive Australian governments to increase funding commitments to sustainable development across the globe.
The position of the Uniting Church in Australia (UCA) has been that Australia should commit to the internationally-agreed target of contributing 0.7 per cent of our Gross National Income (GNI) to sustainable development initiatives by 2030.
After a long period of the deepest cuts to the aid budget in Australia’s history, the Albanese government has restored a modest increase, as well as partial indexation to ensure it grows over coming years.
There’s hope again!
But of course, it isn’t just about governments. It’s about all of us.
We in the UCA, through UnitingWorld, are blessed to be a part of a powerful network of people and organisations working together to make sustainable progress to end poverty in our world.
The lives and work of our overseas partners constantly show us what is possible even while faced with huge challenges.
Take our partners in Bali.
Imagine a tiny group of Christians, living amongst staunch Hindus. They make up less than two percent of the population and live on the cultural margins, with little power or influence. But led by the Gospel to bring good news to the poor, they set themselves to weaving a web of relationships.
They win the trust of the poorest in their community by listening to them. They bring together village elders and government representatives. They reach out to their international church partners for support. Then, slowly but surely, they become the catalytic center of a movement of social transformation.
Because of their hard work, people blindsided by COVID-19 have the chance to start again with new livelihoods. Women, young people and people with disability are able to have their say in how their village uses government grants. Families get access to health services and children go to school. And, best of all, the communities become more resilient and more able to deal with setbacks and disasters.
This is the story of our partner, the Protestant Christian Church in Bali. Through them, we have the great privilege to be a part of their incredible community development work to end poverty in rural villages.
Every day, our overseas partners are impacting the lives of people and helping communities overcome poverty in real and lasting ways.
It’s a joy to be able to support them in it.
The movement to end poverty is formidable, but smaller than the need requires.
So everyone is invited, and everyone has a role to play.
Together we can end poverty.
Photos: After he had to leave his job to look after his elderly mother, Komang was struggling to make ends meet and was losing hope for a better life for his family. Supported by UnitingWorld, the Protestant Christian Church in Bali helped him start a small chicken-breeding business that has given him an entire new future.
You can help us make a powerful impact this tax time
We’re fundraising to resource the critical work of our church partners in the Pacific, Asia and Africa; giving people the tools and opportunities to lift themselves out of poverty.
Right now, your donation will be combined with funding with the Australian Government to make up to six times the impact ending poverty!
Donate today at www.unitingworld.org.au/endpoverty