What President Obama left out in his UN speech

By Bishop Neil IronsExecutive Secretary, Council of Bishops, United Methodist Church I believe that God weeps with us for every … Continued

By Bishop Neil Irons
Executive Secretary, Council of Bishops, United Methodist Church

I believe that God weeps with us for every one of the 29,000 children who die each day of preventable causes. Ten years ago, world leaders came together to begin a long fight against the great injustice of extreme poverty. They set out eight goals to reach by 2015 – benchmarks like reducing maternal mortality by three quarters, and counteracting environmental degradation.

Last week, President Obama joined world leaders at the United Nations in New York to review our progress toward these goals and how best to achieve them over the next five years. While some important progress has been made, we still have a perilously long way to go.

The triple global crises of the past two years – the food, fuel, and financial crises – compounded by a growing climate crisis, threaten to undermine much of the progress in the fight against poverty. The global economic crisis already forced 50 million more people into extreme poverty last year; 1.2 million more children may die before their fifth birthday than would have if the crisis hadn’t happened.

I am pleased that President Obama adopted the strong call to keep our development promises and commitments from the faith community members in the Jubilee USA movement over the last months. The president cares deeply that the most vulnerable are involved in steps to achieve the MDGs. However, President Obama missed the opportunity to include a critical piece of ending poverty in his speech- economic justice and debt cancellation.

I pray that President Obama enacts a bold – and concrete – plan in the upcoming months to bring economic justice to those who continue to suffer the most but have the least responsibility in creating these crises. With only five years left to reach these critical poverty benchmarks, world leaders must fulfill commitments made a decade ago and add new, measurable commitments to the table – including expanded debt cancellation and fundamental reform of international financial institutions.

Ten years ago people of faith around the globe mobilized around the biblical call of “Jubilee” – to cancel unjust debts and restore right relationships among nations. The global partnerships seen in 1999 and 2005 to cancel crippling debts to impoverished countries, scale up aid to the poorest, and increase transparency and accountability of governments have saved lives. In Tanzania, debt cancellation, coupled with strong government policies, meant that 1.5 million more children were able to attend school.

As a leader in the Church, I know from the 8 million United Methodists in the pews each week that many Americans are struggling. It’s understandable that some may feel that right now our country should not prioritize helping people in countries far away. Yet, people of all faith, including Christians, are called to heal the sick, clothe the naked, and feed the hungry – even when it is not easy. And, practically, the relatively small investment in debt cancellation has huge payoffs for the well-being of millions as well as our own security.

There are twenty low-income countries, such as Lesotho and Mongolia, struggling with extreme poverty, that were left out of past debt relief deals. The president could start with ensuring that the benefits of debt cancellation are expanded to these countries.

The international community must agree to binding stands of responsible lending and borrowing for countries, which include transparency for both lenders and borrowers, as well as ensuring respect for human rights, the environment, and affected communities. These standards must also apply to international financial institutions such as the World Bank and IMF, whose onerous economic conditions on debt relief and new loans have forced some countries to cut back social spending in times of crisis, leaving the poor and vulnerable without any safety net

The one billion people who go to bed hungry at night desperately need more than the platitudes and vague promises made this past week. President Obama must encourage the developed countries of the world to make concrete commitments to expand debt cancellation, end harmful economic conditions that affect the poor, and establish binding frameworks for responsible lending and borrowing.

  • JSlater1

    While approximately 88% of the world believes in God, it’s not always obvious by the way people treat or protect others. We need to stop and think about what’s truly important in life. When we behave as a Christian should and let others know what we believe, it encourages others to do the same. Sort of like peer pressure, but in a good way. http://www.eightyeightpercent.com

Read More Articles

Valle Header Art
My Life Depended on the Very Act of Writing

How I was saved by writing about God and cancer.

Sociologist: Religion Can Predict Sexual Behavior

“Religion and sex are tracking each other like never before,” says sociologist Mark Regnerus.

The Internet Is Not Killing Religion. So What Is?

Why is religion in decline in the modern world? And what can save it?

river dusk
Cleaner, Lighter, Closer

What’s a fella got to do to be baptized?

Magical Thinking and the Canonization of Two Popes

Why Pope Francis is canonizing two popes for all of the world wide web to see.

An Ayatollah’s Gift to Baha’is, Iran’s Largest Religious Minority

An ayatollah offers a beautiful symbolic gesture against a backdrop of violent persecution.

Screenshot 2014-04-23 11.40.54
Atheists Bad, Christians Good: A Review of “God’s Not Dead”

A smug Christian movie about smug atheists leads to an inevitable happy ending.

Ten Ways to Make Your Church Autism-Friendly

The author of the Church of England’s autism guidelines shares advice any church can follow.

Pope Francis: Stop the Culture of Waste

What is the human cost of our tendency to throw away?

chapel door
“Sometimes You Find Something Quiet and Holy”: A New York Story

In a hidden, underground sanctuary, we were all together for a few minutes in this sweet and holy mystery.

Mary Magdalene, the Closest Friend of Jesus

She’s been ignored, dismissed, and misunderstood. But the story of Easter makes it clear that Mary was Jesus’ most faithful friend.

From Passover to Easter: Why I’m Grateful to be Jewish, Christian, and Alive

Passover with friends. Easter with family. It’s almost enough to make you believe in God.

Top 10 Reasons We’re Glad A Catholic Colbert Is Taking Over Letterman’s “Late Show”

How might we love Stephen Colbert as the “Late Show” host? Let us count the ways.

God’s Not Dead? Why the Good News Is Better than That

The resurrection of Jesus is not a matter of private faith — it’s a proclamation for the whole world.

The Three Most Surprising Things Jesus Said

Think you know Jesus? Some of his sayings may surprise you.

Jesus, Bunnies, and Colored Eggs: An Explanation of Holy Week and Easter

So, Easter is a one-day celebration of Jesus rising from the dead and turning into a bunny, right? Not exactly.