From the Worldwide Faith News archives www.wfn.org
UNITED NATIONS CONFERENCE CALLS FOR
05 May 1996 12:54:55
95079 UNITED NATIONS CONFERENCE CALLS FOR
ELIMINATION OF POVERTY
by Jerry L. Van Marter
and Carol Fouke
National Council of Churches News Office
COPENHAGEN, Denmark--Representatives of 118 governments attending an
historic United Nations global summit here March 6-12 agreed for the first
time that abject poverty in the world should not simply be reduced or
alleviated, but eliminated.
"That is a theological, not a sociological, issue," said the Rev. Joan
Brown Campbell, general secretary of the National Council of Churches
(NCC), who was among the summit's participants. She served as an adviser to
the U.S. government delegation, representing nongovernmental organizations'
interests in the conference.
"Christians and other people of faith understand that poverty results
from a failure to share resources, and that it is impossible to avoid the
call to eradicate hunger and poverty," Campbell said. "The resources are
not ours, but God's, and we are the stewards."
In addition to the NCC and its relief, development and refugee
assistance arm, Church World Service, the conference, "World Summit for
Social Development," drew delegations from many other religious groups,
including the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).
The summit was historic, Campbell said, in that for the first time
heads of state agreed that "our security as nations depends not on whether
we can control our arms but on whether we can feed our people."
According to statistics often cited during the summit, more than 1
billion people worldwide live in absolute poverty, a condition
characterized by severe deprivation of basic human needs including food,
safe drinking water, sanitation facilities, health, shelter, education and
The summit's commitments to eradicate absolute poverty, reduce
unemployment and foster social integration apply to all nations, including
the United States.
"This is not just a question of how we deal with the poorest in
Africa, Asia and Latin America but also the poorest in Appalachia and on
our city streets," Campbell said.
"This summit is taking the side of the weakest," added Juan Somavia, a
summit organizer and Chile's ambassador to the United Nations. "We are
facing a moral crisis in the world. The idea that poverty is the fault of
the poor is prevailing and the summit breaks that mode of thinking."
Referring to it as "a cry of alarm," Somavia said, "The summit is a
point of departure. Now we have to run with the ball."
# # #
For more information contact Presbyterian News Service
Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), Louisville, KY 40202
phone 502-569-5504 fax 502-569-8073
E-mail PCUSA.NEWS@pcusa.org Web page: http://www.pcusa.org
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