Friday, February 29, 2008

"Bush, AIDS, business and Africa" -- by Dr. Josh Ruxin

This month, when President Bush traveled to Ghana, Liberia, Tanzania, Benin and Rwanda - the nations on his African itinerary - he visited more than a few AIDS treatment centers. This makes sense: a big reason for the president’s visit was to see firsthand the progress made by the life-saving initiatives he set in motion through his administration’s programs.

More than $19 billion has been invested in programs to fight AIDS, malaria and other killers. More than one million Africans with AIDS have been put on AIDS drugs, and new programs are aggressively treating and preventing malaria, the biggest killer of children under five on the continent. Though more needs to be done going forward, the Bush years have been a time when a foundation was laid for meaningful global public health interventions, and it’s right for the president to see the real impact of the United States dollars on African lives.

While the medicine and care provided by the Bush Administration is indeed important, it is only part of a larger equation. Providing health care support will treat disease, but it can’t eliminate its roots in poverty. Business development can. The more prosperous people are — whether in the United States or sub-Saharan Africa — the less likely they are to contract AIDS.

Rwanda has taken an approach that includes massive health care improvements alongside extraordinary efforts to build the private sector. This approach makes sense: a recent BBC report showed that economic growth does not necessarily improve health. President Kagame — when not pushing health issues — has recently visited far-flung places like the Consumer Electronics Show to drum up investors in Rwanda.

Several months ago, I wrote on my New York Times blog about the need for technology businesses to invest in countries like Rwanda. Among the comments I’d read in response were a few that wondered why in the world we should be worried about that kind of development when providing food and medicine was an infinitely more immediate issue.

The fact is, between providing aid and encouraging business development, you can’t do either exclusively: you must do both. If you only provide medications and food, you may treat disease, but you’ll have to do it over and over again. Adequate AIDS treatment alone might get us to where we were 25 years ago - but on its own does nothing to cultivate economic productivity. AIDS treatment alone fails to address the root causes of disease. In the community of Mayange, Rwanda, a Columbia University project recently rolled out voluntary counseling and testing for AIDS. While the community quickly took advantage of the new service, it was not exactly the talk of the town. Several weeks later, the basket weaving cooperative in Mayange received a purchase order for $2,000 of coasters and placemats. The community has been talking about that ever since.

Encouraging local business, urging international development, teaching micro-finance and building cooperatives does something health care can’t accomplish, something that can lift people out of the cycle of disease and despondency. More than “fighting poverty,” which has always seemed to me to be a goal that’s not ambitious enough, these types of programs can create prosperity. Prosperity is the engine that can pull a whole nation up, and could bring AIDS down to levels you’d find in Europe or the U.S.

So, while President Bush looked at AIDS centers, I hope he also took a close look at the business environment, what his programs have helped bring about, and what more can be done to create more opportunities. If it seems counterintuitive to stress business and prosperity, just think how much easier it would be to get ahead of killers like AIDS if the number of new cases goes from a flood to a trickle.

Josh Ruxin is a Columbia University expert on public health who has spent the last couple of years living in Rwanda, where he administers the Millennium Villages Project in Mayange. He’s an unusual mix of academic expert and mud-between-the-toes aid worker. His regular posts (including this one) can be found on the blogroll of Nick Kristof of the New York Times, and he has given his permission to be cross-posted here. Josh and EGR executive director Mike Kinman team-teach a global poverty module for Trinity, Wall Street's Clergy Leadership Project.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

"Learning to Fly" by Erin Bernstein

A pair of eagles abandoned their unhatched egg in a nest full of other eggs, but this nest did not belong to another eagle. No, it was a chicken’s nest. The young eagle hatched with its chicken brothers and sisters and the hen adopted the majestic bird as her own. The eagle sounded like a chicken, ate like a chicken, and flew like a chicken. A majestic bird it seemed, but this eagle was nothing more than a lowly chicken raised in a lowly chicken family. During flying lessons one day, danger came to the coop, and the chicken family hurriedly scurried to find safety. Though the eagle had only been able to fly a few feet at a time, it scooped up its family, spread its long wings, and flew far from the danger. This chicken had finally become an eagle.

A Northern Ugandan man recited this story to small group of advanced English learners at Alakolum internally displaced persons camp outside of Gulu, Uganda. All of them had informed him of their dreams and educational goals, some revealing to him the sad reality that they had no hopes for their future. They lived in this camp and were doomed to the life it entailed: no education, no career, no change.

But are they, in fact, doomed? Or is opportunity for change actually within their reach, but the strings of responsibility and disappointment tighten their grip and pull them back before they can grab hold of something better?

When all that young people know is the war into which they’ve been born, it is easy to dream of going to school and getting a job, but it is also easy to understand the reality: children need tending, the elderly need assistance, and bellies need sustenance.

The young man who dreams of opening a mechanics shop for street boys to work cannot afford the technical education to begin such an endeavor. He cannot earn the money because he cannot work. He cannot work because he must help his mother care for the five orphans she adopted. A vicious cycle.

Sound familiar? This situation is neither new nor is it found only in Northern Uganda. Wander several miles off the grounds of the University of Tennessee and you will find the same story. Inner-city Knoxville knows it well. In addition to financial and family struggles, inner-city America often faces inadequate education and adults who encourage children to settle for nothing more than mediocrity.

Schools must educate the total child: teach her to embrace the culture of which society so often trains her to be ashamed. Schools must push the high-achievers and work with the low-achievers. They must provide the foundation for change—one that includes reasons to stay in school, something to work for.

What do I know, having never grown up in either place? Who am I to discuss such things, having only known privilege all my life? I know enough to care. I know enough to understand that neither the American children living in the projects nor the Ugandan children living in the IDP camps are predestined for poverty and inferiority. I know enough to say that when governments neglect the importance of these people, an impoverished future will devour them before they have a chance to resist.

Education inequality and inadequacy fall into the shadows of other political matters in both Uganda and the U.S., pulling inner-city children and the Acholi of Northern Uganda into the shadows as well. When these people’s countries have forgotten about them, they become invisible and begin to believe that they do not belong in a world of success and bright futures. The eagles will soon forget how to fly and eventually, they will all remain as chickens.

Erin Bernstein is a junior at the University of Tennessee, designing a major in the comparison of post-conflict education in Northern Uganda and education in inner-city Knoxville. Her passion for serving people has brought her to Hungary, Romania, and South Africa through the Rotary Club of Knoxville and to Botswana, Uganda, and back to South Africa through the Knoxville Jazz for Justice Project, which seeks to music as healing in war-torn Northern Uganda. She will be living in Uganda for two months beginning in March for an internship at the Ugandan Parliament and to work on an art therapy project with young women in the north.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

"All Talk and No Action in Darfur" -- a BBC report

Five years since the conflict in Darfur began, BBC News website's World Affairs correspondent Paul Reynolds asks why international concern has not been translated into effective intervention.

The deep concern about Darfur felt internationally has not been matched by a similar determination to intervene.

It is not from lack of knowledge.

There have been many reports, from the UN and others, which have laid the blame largely at the door of the government of Sudan.

The US has called the killings genocide, though the UN held back from using that word.

However, whatever it is called, no major power was willing to send its own forces to try to put an end to it.

Instead, diplomacy has centred on putting pressure on the Sudanese government to restrain its armed forces and the Janjaweed militias it is accused of supporting - charges it denies.

Sudan has also been pressured into allowing in peacekeeping forces, first from the African Union (AU) and then from a mixed AU-UN force including other international troops.

However, those peacekeepers have been weak. The African Union force has been ineffective. The wider international force has not been properly deployed.

Diplomacy not enough

A great deal of effort has also been put into trying to solve the underlying political problems which led to the first rebel attacks in 2003, but these talks, amounting to agreements sometimes, have a habit of fading away.

The best aspect of the world's response perhaps has been humanitarian. Undoubtedly many lives have been saved.

One of the problems for the outside world is that it has been dealing with a very determined government unwilling to concede much in what it sees as a major threat on its own territory.

Another is that the rebel groups have not been united and have not always been ready to make a peace agreement.

Clearly, diplomacy has not been enough.

"The Americans were quite driven over Darfur, but were hamstrung by their great achievement of the North-South agreement in Sudan," says Richard Dowden, executive director of the Royal African Society in London.

"This meant they could not apply too much pressure on Khartoum over Darfur because its co-operation was needed for the North-South implementation.

"Sudan was able to manipulate African opinion and blunt whatever pressure there was.

China, which buys about 60% of Sudan's oil and sells it weapons, has also played a key role in helping Sudan avoid UN sanctions.

"Although China did in the end persuade it to accept the hybrid force, breaking its own rules about not intervening in the political affairs of the countries in which it invests," Mr Dowden notes.

"If the US had not done Iraq, it might have done Darfur, but the mood in the West was that this was an African problem and an African solution should be sought.

"If there was genocide, then it happened in 2003/4. By the time the world got round to acting, it was too late."

Mention of Iraq raises the issue, though, of whether any intervention in Darfur would have produced its own problems, given the opposition of the Sudanese government.

'Turning point'

One example of how interested the world is in Darfur but how powerless it has been can be seen in the role of the International Criminal Court.

The court has indicted (but has not managed to have arrested) two Sudanese officials for war crimes - Ahmad Harun, currently the minister for humanitarian affairs, and Ali Kushayb, leader of the pro-government Janjaweed militia.

In a statement in February 2007, the court's prosecutor described how the "turning point" in the conflict was the rebel attack on Fasher airport in North Darfur in April 2003.

Ahmad Harun, the prosecutor said, was then appointed interior minister.

"Shortly after Harun's appointment, the recruitment of militia/Janjaweed greatly increased, ultimately into the tens of thousands.

"The vast majority of attacks in Darfur were carried out by the militia/Janjaweed and the armed forces... they targeted civilian residents based on the rationale that they were supporters of the rebel forces.

"This strategy became the justification for the mass murder, summary execution, and mass rape of civilians who were known not to be participants in any armed conflict. The strategy included the forced displacement of entire villages and communities."

Hostile forces

Yet Ahmad Harun nor Ali Kushayb have not been arrested and handed over by the government of Sudan.

Indeed, Ahmad Harun was subsequently put in charge of government refugee camps and has been appointed to the group monitoring the deployment of the AU-UN force.

In December 2007, ICC prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo told the Security Council:

"In Darfur in 2003 - 2004, we witnessed the first phase of the criminal plan co-ordinated by Ahmad Harun. Millions of people were forced out of their villages and into camps.

"In the second phase - happening right now in front of our eyes - Ahmad Harun is controlling the victims inside the camps... women are raped... the displaced are surrounded by hostile forces; their land and homes are being occupied by new settlers. The rationale is the same as before: target civilians who could be rebel supporters.

"As long as Harun remains free in Khartoum, there will be no comprehensive solution in Darfur."

Such talk shows how much has yet to be done.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

"Take Action on Youth AIDS Day" -- from the Global AIDS Alliance

Today is Youth AIDS Day, and people and groups around the country need you to take five minutes to help pass legislation that will save millions of lives worldwide. In the next few weeks, Congress will consider reauthorization of the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, President Bush's 2003 proposal to treat 2 million people with AIDS and prevent 7 million HIV infections by the end of 2008. This plan expires at the end of this year, and must be continued.

There are two things you can do today to make sure this PEPFAR legislation passes:

First, email your Members of Congress and ask them to support reauthorization of the US Global AIDS Initiative (PEPFAR).

Second, please call Senator Lugar, the Ranking Member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, who is drafting the Senate bill at this time, and ask him to support a bill modeled on the one that is being considered by the House.

Click here to send an email to your Member of Congress. Then, call Senator Lugar at 202-224-5641. Here's a sample script, but you should feel free to modify it:

"Hi, my name is _______ and I'm calling in hnor of Youth AIDS Day. I want to encourage Senator Lugar to work with Senator Biden to craft a bill to reauthorize the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief. President Bush began this program in 2003, and it has been an immense success and must continue. But we need to make sure that we do the most good possible, and I hope Senator Lugar can support a bill that continues the progress President Bush started - the bill should include $50 billion over five years in funding, an end to the abstinence-only funding earmark, treatment for four million people, and train 140,000 new healthcare workers to address the key bottleneck to treating the people we've promised to treat in Africa."

The PEPFAR reauthorization bill currently in the House includes $50 billion over five years, which is sufficient funding to treat one-third of people in need of treatment worldwide, begin to address the dire shortage of healthcare workers, treat and prevent TB and malaria, the leading killers of people with AIDS, and prevent HIV with evidence-based programs instead of ideology.

Your Member of Congress and Senator Lugar need to hear from you that this bill must pass in order to save the most number of lives.

Around the country, hundreds of thousands of people are waking up and seeing this email in their inbox. Each person is given an opportunity to take action; to do something to make sure that every person living with HIV has access to treatment to save their lives, and every person at risk for HIV infection has the tools needed to prevent infection. But of these hundreds of thousands of people, how many will take action? Knowledge is only power when you use that knowledge to win changes in the lives of people around the world. Will you be one of the people who take action?

Can we count on you to email your Member of Congress and call Senator Lugar today to ensure that the US Global AIDS Plan is reauthorized, with the best possible language so that we do the most good around the world?

Thank you for your hard work,

ActionAid USA
Advocates for Youth
American Medical Student Association
Americans for Informed Democracy
Global AIDS Alliance
Health GAP
Physicians for Human Rights
Student Global AIDS Campaign
University Coalitions for Global Health

PS- The House Committee on Foreign Affairs votes on PEPFAR reauthorization on Wednesday, Feb. 27th. On Thurdsay, Feb. 28th at 8pm ET and again on Friday, Feb. 29th at 2pm ET, we will be hosting a conference call to update everyone on the status of the bill, and what steps to take next. Please join us to learn how you can continue to take action to make sure this important piece of legislation passes. At the start time, call in to 800-505-4464 and type the passcode 951678# to join the call.

Monday, February 25, 2008

"Have your cake and eat it, too" by Elaine Thomas

"America is an enormous frosted cupcake in the middle of millions of starving people"

-Gloria Steinem
This quote from the EGR e-newsletter caught my eye. It might have been that I had just been eyeing the luscious looking pink frosted Valentine’s Day cupcakes in my local gourmet market. Or maybe it’s that my daughter is a cupcake connoisseur, going from Magnolia, Billy’s Bakery and Buttercup Bakeshop in NY to Brown Betty Dessert Boutique and Naked Chocolate Café in Philadelphia in search of the perfect cupcake. (Me? I’ll take the whole cake, thank you very much!)

As I ruminated on Steinem’s quote, however, I couldn’t help but be struck not only by the truth it states but also by how misleading it is. Everyday, my agency faces the grim reality of shrinking funding streams for programs for the poor. Most of our donors are from Episcopal parishes in the Diocese of Pennsylvania, and those that aren’t concerned with simply keeping the heat on in their churches are turning their sights to Africa or Central America. And that’s great, but it’s also unfortunate because a homeless person or a family in crisis or a teenager who can’t read just doesn’t have the same ‘cachet’ as an AIDS orphan or a tsunami victim.

Don’t get me wrong. I am not bemoaning the fact that the dollars seem to be going overseas rather than to domestic projects. I understand that the poverty most people face in America doesn’t approach the poverty of those living in sub-Saharan Africa. What distresses me is that it is increasingly becoming an either/or proposition: either we give domestically or we give globally and never the twain shall meet.

The Gospel I believe is one of abundance, of late-coming laborers earning the same as those who worked all day, of a spendthrift selling everything he owns to buy a pearl, of a God who never gives what we deserve (thank goodness for that) but who always gives more than we need. Since when is there not enough to go around? Why do we allow politics and war and protecting self-interest to divert us from our Baptismal vows to seek and serve Christ in all persons? It shouldn’t matter where they live – there’s enough for everyone!

Recently, my husband was invited to address the Vestry at his church as chair of the Outreach Committee. He’s grown more than a little tired of having to beg for outreach dollars to be added as a line item to the budget (they have to hold fundraisers – they’re not in the budget!) so like a prophet of old, Malachi to be exact, he said to them:
Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this," says the LORD Almighty, "and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it. (Malachi 3:10)
That’s the boundless abundance of a loving God. The more you give the more there is to give. It’s a spiritual principal. There’s no need to argue about cupcakes when there’s a multi-layer cake to go around, better tasting than five loaves and two fish, but with the same power to work miracles. You really can have your cake and eat it, too; you just can’t eat all of it! Bon appétit!

Elaine Thomas is a member of St. James in Lancaster, PA where she is a member of the Peace and Justice and Stewardship Committees. She is also the EGR and ERD Coordinator for the Diocese of Central Pennsylvania. Elaine works for Episcopal Community Services in Philadelphia, a social service agency whose mission is to help individuals and families with multiple needs overcome the impact of poverty.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

"The MDGs in Rochester - A Story of Faith" by the Rev. Dahn Dean Gandell

My bishop, the Rt. Rev. Jack M. McKelvey, is retiring at the end of May. In honor of his retirement, a fund has been established through the Episcopal Diocese of Rochester. The fund is actually in honor of Jack and Linda, his wife, and is called the Millennium Development Fund. The goal is to invest the funds and use the proceeds in support of the MDGs.

Bishop McKelvey made his annual visitation to our parish last Sunday. It was bittersweet since we knew it was going to be his last visit as diocesan bishop. The vestry decided to take up a special offering to give to the Millennium Development Fund.

Now, y’all need to know that I talk LOTS about the MDGs. I should—it’s part of my job, not only as a priest of the church and citizen of the world, but also as the MDG coordinator for the diocese. We have a big display at the back of the church about the MDGs and most parishioners wear “ONE” bracelets and have the 0.7% buttons. We had a big Advent Offering for ER&D and Joining Hearts and Hands (a mission project based in Kenya.)

Y’all also need to know that, like many parishes, my parish is facing a budget deficit. I was very concerned about folks’ willingness to give YET AGAIN to an offering that was designated for use outside of the parish when our own parish is really struggling.

I need to have more faith. My parish donated $542.50 to the Millennium Development Fund. And they gave cheerfully. And my treasurer told me today that every time she thinks “Uh oh, we’re not going to make payroll this month” some unexpected donation or delinquent pledge comes in and we make it.

I know the need is overwhelming. I know the problems are overwhelming. I know many parishes are struggling to pay their bills. But I have found in my own parish that folks aren’t making a decision to either give to an MDG related ministry OR to the parish—they give to both. We have to have faith.

I’m grateful to God for the ministry of Jack and Linda McKelvey in the diocese of Rochester. And I look forward to writing future blogs about how the MDFund is being used.

The Rev. Dahn Dean Gandell is rector of St. John's Episcopal Church in Honeoye Falls, NY, and MDG coordinator for the Diocese of Rochester.

Monday, February 18, 2008

"The Worst Place on Earth" -- NBC's Ann Curry reporting from the DR Congo

Last week, the Today Show's Ann Curry did some amazing and critical reporting from what very well may be the world's most dangerous place -- the DR Congo. The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is home to the deadliest war in the world today. An estimated 5.4 million people have died since 1998, the largest death toll since the Second World War, according to the International Rescue Committee (IRC).

IRC reports that as many as 45,000 people die each month in the Congo. Most deaths are due to easily preventable and curable conditions, such as malaria, diarrhea, pneumonia, malnutrition, and neonatal problems and are byproducts of a collapsed healthcare system and a devastated economy.

Take a few minutes and watch this report about the situation there. Then go to the Today Show website to see and learn more, including an slideshow exploring the political, cultural and historical issues surrounding the crisis in Congo.

What Can One Person Do? For starters you can keep getting informed. One of the best ways to do this is the New York Times' "country page" on DR Congo (This is a great way to keep informed on any country of interest). Also read the International Rescue Committee's special report on Congo.

Then you can support organizations like these who are providing critical aid to the Congolese people:

Doctors Without Borders

Women for Women International

Saturday, February 16, 2008

"Using quiet diplomacy to reshape women's lives" - from the Globe and Mail

This is a great story of "best practices" in making the Millennium Development Goals happen. The two things that make this program unique are two of the most important ingredients -- empowering women and local leadership.


From Friday's Globe and Mail

BANDIAGARA, MALI — It started with soap and some rough bolts of cotton. Back in 1999, Aïguèrè Tembely and a few other women in this town on Mali's famed Bandiagara escarpment started a simple aid project. They had the rare advantage of education, in a country where 85 per cent of women cannot read or write, and they wanted to do something for their sisters in the villages of this culturally rich but economically bleak terrain where Mali's Dogon people live.

So they started teaching women to make soap and dye cotton and a few other skills meant to earn them a bit of extra money. Which was all well and good, except pretty quickly, the village women had a question.

"They asked us, 'Why is it that when you women come here on your scooter, you are never pregnant, and you never have a baby on your back?' " recalled Ms. Tembely, who is known universally here as Fifi. "And we said, because of family planning, of course. And the women said, 'What's that?' And we said, 'Ah non!' They knew nothing about it. And we knew we would have to do something."

They were fast getting the sense that the ability to plan pregnancies would do more for village women than any soap-making project. But Ms. Tembely's expertise is in soil erosion and none of the other women were qualified to teach family planning either.

So they marched down to the local clinic and explained their predicament to the doctor. Soon they were versed in the intricacies of everything from diaphragm use to assessing a woman's fitness to take the contraceptive pill. But they couldn't just start doling out diaphragms, mais non, Ms. Tembely said. Men rule Dogon society, and decisions on pregnancy are not made by women.

"So we went first to the men, and we said, this is family planning. Why don't you use it? The men said it was forbidden in religion - no, we said, it's godly for people to be healthy and in order for women to be healthy, they must space their children."

With a small, shrewd smile, she added, "And then we said, 'Anyway, it will save you money - your children will be healthier and more of them will live.' And so the men agreed, and then the women said they would do it. That was the beginning."

It was the beginning of an extraordinary development initiative that has served to quietly, unobtrusively and radically reshape the lives of women in Dogon society. Aid workers with the Canadian diplomatic mission here, which funds the project, speak of Madame Fifi and her group as one of the most effective they have seen anywhere.

In the past nine years, contraception use in the area has risen from zero to nearly 70 per cent of women. Illiteracy is dropping quickly. And they have virtually eliminated female genital cutting in the 97 villages where they work in a country where the practice is otherwise nearly universal.

The group is called YAGTU - an acronym for the Dogon words for woman promotion association. Its driving force is Ms. Tembely, 38, a large woman with an even larger voice. But it's her skill for quiet diplomacy that has made YAGTU so effective.

Read the rest of the article here.

Friday, February 15, 2008

"Take Care of Things - A reflection on Benedict" -- by The Micah Challenge

Today's post is from the Micah Challenge, a global Christian campaign to achieve the MDGs. Part of their mission is a weekly prayer emailing like the one you see below. You can receive it in your email box every week send a blank email to with the words 'subscribe prayer' in the subject line.

Our reflection today is a brief introduction to the life of the St. Benedict, the founder of Christian monastic movements in the 4th century, by Dave Andrews.

When Benedict started to live in community his understanding of spirituality was radically transformed.

‘He was convinced that preaching “good news to the poor” demanded grass-roots, hands-on solidarity with them.’
Benedict’s ‘little rule for beginners’ encouraged people to ‘take care of things’. Everything was to be done in a way that would care for others.

Please reflect on Colossians 3:18-25 where, in the context of our home and work relationships, we are encouraged to do everything with a sincere heart as our service for God.

‘Benedict believed that the dynamics at the heart of a healthy, holy, communal way of life were work and prayer. He said people could not “take care of things” unless they were prepared to work hard; and they were unlikely to be prepared to work hard unless their work was suffused with prayer.’


Let us pray:

* Lord, please help us to take care of the things that you have put before us. Help us to be responsible and accountable to others in our service for you and others.

* Our prayer focus this week is Micah Challenge (Défi Michée) France: Thierry Seewald, the French coordinator, writes:

‘At the beginning of 2008, we are encouraging people to participate in the action ‘0.7% or more’. This is our response to the fall in the level of Official Development Aid (ODA) internationally and in France. ODA in France has dropped from 0.47% in 2006 to 0.42% in 2007. In addition, France had envisaged to reach the pledged 0.7% by 2012 but this date was pushed back by Nicholas Sarkozy, the new French president. Financial assistance through ODA is crucial so that countries in the Global South can achieve the MDGs.

We are also asking churches to pledge 0.7% of their annual budget to commit to projects that are aiming to reduce world poverty.

Please pray for our churches in France to take the challenge! And that the French government and President Sarkozy will react to our lobbying activities and increase their ODA to at least 0.7% by the original date set, 2012.
* Please take a moment to use the MDG monitoring tool introduced below, find your country and look at its statistics. You may want to pray for your country’s policy makers or for campaigns and organisations that seek to lobby policy makers and political leaders to keep their promise to achieve the MDGs by 2015.
Meditate on the Statistics

As you spend time in prayer and reflection, you may like to take a moment to silently understand with your heart the focus statistic we include each week (see below). Our hope is that you will find this series of statistics a useful resource in preparing presentations.

MDG 8: Develop a Global Partnership for Development

Progress indicator 33
: Net ODA, total and to LDCs, as percentage of OECD/Development Assistance Committee (DAC) donors' gross national income (GNI)(OECD)

Instead of a statistic, we would like to introduce you to a new MDG monitoring tool! If you click on the following link, it will show you a world map indicating the ‘Net ODA as percentage of OECD/DAC donors GNI’:

The MDG Monitor shows how countries are progressing in their efforts to achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). With the 2015 target date fast approaching, it is more important than ever to understand where the goals are on track, and where additional efforts and support are needed, both globally and at the country level.

The MDG Monitor is designed as a tool for policymakers, development practitioners, journalists, students and others to:

* TRACK progress through interactive maps and country-specific profiles
* LEARN about countries' challenges and achievements and get the latest news
* SUPPORT organizations working on the MDGs around the world

Yours in Christ,

Regine and MC team

Thursday, February 14, 2008

"Kenya Catastrophe" by Dr. Christiana Russ

Kenya is synonymous with catastrophe at the moment, and it is breaking my heart.

We have all heard in the news about rigged elections, ethnic tensions surfacing resulting in violence and ethnic cleansing. The country risks disintegration. It is disintegrating along the seams of tribal lands as people flee to their home villages to escape persecution. Kenya’s economy is also disintegrating - tourists are shunning the region, transportation and travel are still unsafe and goods aren’t being delivered, businesses are closing, jobs are being lost. In one day of power grabbing and greed the leadership – both the president and the opposition – pulled Kenya back from its recent advances with extraordinary speed.

I had never until now had close experience of political violence and unrest. But I spent three months in the fall in Kenya, and now it is friends and former neighbors whom I am reading about in the news. Grisly pictures of the city of Kisumu (ed: see this YouTube video) which lies in wreckage show streets that are familiar to me. And what strikes me the most and keeps hitting my heart is that it’s the little ones – the least of these – who will suffer most.

The community here in the Diocese of Massachusetts gets regular updates about the state of affairs in western Kenya through the eyes of Gary and Nan Hardison, two incredibly brave and determined missionaries who have lived in Maseno, Kenya for the last seven years. They were briefly pulled to Nairobi in early January as problems were rising, but then despite the risks, returned to Maseno recently to help their community recover from the violence. They write about food prices which have doubled or tripled. They write about fertilizer and seed being too expensive now for most of the subsistence farmers to afford so that the usual February planting is not being done. They write about families trying to gather their loved ones together despite increased costs of transportation and lost jobs.

While in Kenya I spent some of my time working with AIDS orphans and other vulnerable children for whom the Mothers Union in that region have started Saturday programs. The programs provide a good meal, some extra tutoring and classes, and time to relax and play with friends. The children range from toddlers to adolescents. Most of them have lost one or both parents – usually to AIDS. Approximately one percent of them are infected themselves. Things that are utterly taken for granted for children in the United States are a gift for them – including an occasional hot meal with protein, basic medications for skin infections or worms, access to education, school uniforms. Each parish involved in the Mother’s Union program has 300 to 500 children who come on Saturday and there are 38 parishes now providing care, 15 of whom receive outside funding. In effect the Mother’s Union is working to help provide basic needs for perhaps up to 15,000 to 20,000 kids in that area. Their dedication and work is utterly incredible.

We had gathered growth data on some kids from each of the parishes and I am just analyzing it now. Fifty percent of them have some degree of stunting (low height for age) which is due to chronic malnutrition. Thirty percent have some degree of wasting (low weight for height – or skinniness) which is often due to more sudden malnutrition or illness.

These kids – God’s own - already live so close to the brink of hunger, of illiteracy, of poor health. What makes me cry is that political events in which they have no part put them at greatest risk. Others decide to fight and our kids get screwed, to put it bluntly.

Our Lord asks us to care for the least of these. We forget them all too often. Please pray for the least of these in Kenya – that they will be safe and fed.

Dr. Christiana Russ is a pediatrician on faculty at Boston Children's Hospital. She spends half the year at an Anglican mission hospital in Kenya through a joint arrangement with Children's and the Diocese of Massachusetts. Christiana is chair of the Executive Council Standing Commission on HIV/AIDS.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

"Start Small and Stay Committed" -- by Meredith Bowen

A couple of weeks ago I was watching the 11 o’clock news here in Ohio. There was a huge breaking news story about a group of horses discovered in a field south of Cleveland. The horses had been abandoned, and were starving in the snow. It was a terrible sight. There was an instant out-pouring of money (thousands of dollars), donations of food and shelter, medical care and permanent homes for these abandoned horses. People were outraged that this had happened.

Don’t misunderstand me, I am an animal lover through and through. I don’t want animals to suffer. I have been to the pound one too many times myself and brought home yet another dog in need of a loving home. So please don’t misconstrue my frustration for a lack of concern for horses in need. But please! When was the last time the current situation in the Sudan made it onto my 11 o’clock news? Or the plight of children in sub-Saharan Africa – where a child is orphaned by AIDS every 14 seconds?

What if a news crew stumbled upon a field in Ohio filled with starving PEOPLE? What would be the response? Why can’t we have as much empathy for people starving in the third-world as we do for horses starving in our own backyards? Why does having an ocean separating those who have from those who have not alleviate our responsibility to do something about it? Where is the outpouring of cash and concern for people who don’t have anything to eat?

Why are these horse’s lives worth more than those of human beings struggling each and every day to feed their children enough to live another day?

I don’t think that anyone would argue that the horse’s lives are worth more. But our actions speak much louder than our words.

I do appreciate the MDGs but I am finding it increasingly hard to get people to feel passionately about them. Maybe we are approaching this the wrong way. Perhaps a top-down approach is too overwhelming – too much for people to bite off and chew along with the complications of their own lives. Perhaps, if each parish, each family, each person became active and impassioned about ONE project or ONE child or ONE area of the world it would be a way to get the ball rolling.

One field of horses was just enough to get people interested and involved – enough to help people feel connected and empowered to make a difference. During this time of Lent, perhaps we should each take on something instead of giving something up. Stay committed to a project each and everyday despite temptations to stray from the goal. A dollar a day, five dollars a day. One less meal out each week. These small contributions over the course of Lent could add up to a lot for a child in need, a family in need, a village in need.

Start small and stay committed. Get larger in scope and dedication only after a period of success. Don’t let the MDGs overwhelm you or those around you into inaction.

Meredith Bowen is a law student at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland. She spent last fall in Arusha, Tanzania doing an internship at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda. Meredith has volunteered in Tanzania with the Rift Valley Childrens Village (an orphanage) as well as with the Anglican Diocese of Mount Kilimanjaro and the Diocese of Tanga. Started the African Orphan Education Fund to award scholarships for secondary school and university.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

"Removing the N from Neglected Tropical Diseases" by Dr. Josh Ruxin

Last month in Bujumbura, Burundi, a remarkable meeting of medical practitioners and policymakers from that country and Rwanda was held without fanfare or press to examine the results of a two-country initiative to reduce the prevalence of neglected tropical diseases (NTD’s) through the newly-formed Global Network for NTDs. Even though the most infamous NTD’s are scarcely known outside of classrooms and the offices of public health experts, they have a devastating impact on one billion people worldwide.

Schistosomiasis, trachoma, river blindness, elephantiasis, hookworm, soil-transmitted helminths, and other intestinal worm infections wreak havoc and result in death rates that puts them in the epidemiological running with the more popularly known diseases — AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria. Together, the NTD’s produce just as much disability as the better known diseases and are a major reason why the poorest people in Africa cannot escape poverty. The intestinal worms found in most schoolchildren in Rwanda stunt childhood growth, physical fitness and impair intellectual and cognitive development. River blindness has impaired the sight of nearly a million people, 99 percent of whom are in Africa. The great irony is that NTD’s can be effectively treated and controlled for a fraction of the cost of these other diseases. Recently, the Ministry of Health in Rwanda in collaboration with several partners launched a campaign to treat one million children for NTD’s at a cost of about 50 cents per treatment; it costs 300 to 1,200 dollars per year to treat and care for an H.I.V./AIDS patient. Suppressing these diseases is an important goal in itself, but because they increase susceptibility to other diseases, treating them also makes it much easier to treat patients with AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria.

In Rwanda, things are changing for the better. For the first time in decades, news surveys are being conducted to establish baseline data on the prevalence of these nasty and persistent diseases. The results so far are harrowing: nearly 70 percent of school children carry intestinal worms and nearly 30 percent have hookworm. That’s a full-fledged epidemic, but it can rapidly be brought under control. A constellation of political parties in Rwanda are cooperating to do just that.

That’s one country’s approach, but how much longer will NTD’s remain neglected in the rest of the world? AIDS wasn’t a cause for international attention and action until it hit the United States. Perhaps the revelation that an epidemic of NTD’s is possible in the U.S. could have the same effect.

“But wait a moment,” I’ve recently heard. “How could there be an epidemic of neglected tropical diseases here in the United States?” The problem of NTD’s is, in fact, here, and it is quite possibly larger than we know.

In an unusual, recently published article, one of the gurus of neglected tropical disease, Dr. Peter Hotez, postulated that NTD’s, though greatly diminished in America, likely continue to pose a serious public health burden — but one which is completely avoidable. How is this possible in the 21st century and how prevalent are these diseases? Hotez notes that NTD’s disproportionately impact the poor and minorities, and that a lack of epidemiological studies leaves public health experts essentially blind. First to the possibility that a problem exists, and second, to the full scope of the problem.

While new studies are documenting that these diseases are out there in the American population, national surveillance is utterly lacking. So here is the lesson from Rwanda and Burundi for the week: perhaps the U.S. can learn something from health care in Africa (and President Bush should check it out when he visits next month!). The reauthorization for PEPFAR bill — the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief — is now seeking $30 billion of funding for five years and has called for treating “easily preventable infectious diseases” alongside its HIV/AIDS efforts. NTD’s should fall under this effort. That would be the kind of holistic approach that can dramatically improve health in developing countries. Who knows? In a few years, with improved knowledge and interest, the N may be dropped from the NTD’s.

Josh Ruxin is a Columbia University expert on public health who has spent the last couple of years living in Rwanda, where he administers the Millennium Villages Project in Mayange. He’s an unusual mix of academic expert and mud-between-the-toes aid worker. His regular posts can be found on the blogroll of Nick Kristof of the New York Times, and he has given his permission to be cross-posted here. Josh and EGR executive director Mike Kinman team-teach a global poverty module for Trinity, Wall Street's Clergy Leadership Project.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

"10 Essential Principles of Effective MDG Ministry" - by Dr. John Hammock

Many of us get involved at the community or church level with MDG work. In my experience, whether one is working for a non-profit or a church, a government or an international organization, the work needs to be based on some sound principles. Below I summarize what I have found to be essential principles for effective work. These were originally written for a secular audience, but they readily apply to work by churches. If your church is thinking of working with a partner church overseas, these principles should be addressed. There are times when these principles may be mutually incompatible and the actors involved may need to decide which takes precedence over the other.

    1. Accountability. This means being held responsible for one’s actions—to the community, to donors, to government, to the church. It means openness to evaluations and monitoring by all stakeholders. It means responsibility over time for actions committed. Build in the following types of actions: scheduled meetings with stakeholders, formal monitoring and evaluations, periodic review of actions with churches, funders, communities and government. Accountability means making available funds to insure that actions are documented and responsibility accepted over time. It means being open to measuring the impact of a program or partnership.
    2. Participation/ownerhip. This means the community (or church) has ownership of the program and project. It is not just community participation in providing workers, in “doing” projects, or in attending meetings. Effective participation uses the strengths and talents of local people and helps to build their ownership of the program. The results become community assets—organizations, skills, infrastructure, etc.
    3. People as People not Victims. This means seeing the worth, abilities and competencies of local people and building on these. It means abolishing the view of development and relief subjects as recipients or as victims or even as beneficiaries. They are participants and owners of a change process. Use of terms is important as terms help define frameworks, values and methods. Use of terms such as victims and the poor connote passive, unfortunate dependent people. Impoverished, owners, participants, partners better reflect the principle of participation/ownership.
    4. Transparency. This means openness in all that one does, from methodology to objectives to finances. This means openness with communities, with donors, with churches, with vestries, etc.
    5. Non-Partisan. This means not being tied to any one political party or partisan idea of change. It does not mean being apolitical, since all development work is political. Non-partisan means putting the needs of partner communities or partner churches first, not the political gain of a particular political party or group.
    6. Solidarity-Trust. This means building trust with local community and church partners. The best way to build this trust is through the development of bonds of solidarity between the churches or partners. This means that the relationship is not limited to a specific project. The project becomes a tool for the building of a wider relationship to promote full development. One needs to open to the reality that this may lead to work to engage the socio-political and economic structures to reduce promote the necessary efforts to meet the MDGs.
    7. Sustainability. This means that the church or community is trained and empowered to maintain the work that is begun to the best of its ability and potential. Sustainability is a dynamic concept and means for sustainability change over time. Sustainability means focusing on solutions that use resources in efficient and renewable ways, building local capacities to continue the work undertaken without outside intervention.
    8. Division of labor. This means preserving and building the institutional structures that allow for effective ongoing spiritual and social renewal. You as the outsider need to fit into the plans of the host church or community. It is important to realize what gifts each partner has and try to use those gifts most effectively.
    9. People Count. This means that church or community leaders and members count. Effective programs bank on effective community or church leaders and promoters of change. Meeting the MDGs is not just about efficiency and meeting numerical targets. People and their general wellbeing are important.
    10. Timing. This means understanding local realities so that advantage is taken of doing things at the most appropriate time. It means listening to the local partners who know what can and cannot be done at a given time. Effective timing can make or ruin a program.
Dr. John Hammock is an associate professor of public policy at the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy & The Fletcher School, Tufts University. He is currently on leave until September, 2008 and working Sabina Alkire as a senior research associate at the Oxford Poverty & Human Development Initiative, Was Executive Director at Oxfam America from 1984-1995 and Executive Director at ACCION International from 1973-1980. John is the EGR board president.

"Unreasonable People Power: The growing influence of social entrepreneurs" - from


Ten years ago, few people had heard the term "social entrepreneur". Now, to be a social entrepreneur is to be sought after by politicians and businessmen alike for your potential to solve big social challenges in innovative ways. Governments, increasingly struggling to meet society's demands, are desperate for help from someone more creative than the typical bureaucrat.

Businesses, as a recent report in The Economist makes clear (see article), want to engage in socially responsible but still entrepreneurial schemes that let them "do well by doing good". Social entrepreneurs now have a reputation for being able to deliver, especially since the grand-daddy of social entrepreneurship, Muhammad Yunus, was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize a couple of years ago for founding Grameen Bank, a micro-finance powerhouse.

Last month, some of the world's leading social entrepreneurs have gathered near Zurich for the final annual summit organised by the Schwab Foundation for Social Entrepreneurship. Klaus Schwab, the legendary founder of the World Economic Forum, convened the first summit a few years ago, but now apparently feels that social entrepreneurs are sufficiently mainstream that the event has served its purpose. They are an extraordinarily diverse bunch—so much so that it is not at all obvious what it means to be a social entrepreneur.

One session brought together a French woman who runs a company that provides childcare to parents with unusual working hours, a Czech woman who set up a helpline for victims of domestic violence and then campaigned to change the law so that perpetrators rather than victims have to leave the family home, a Chilean founder of an organisation that provides coaching for at-risk families, and a Mexican who has built a for-profit company that provides free movies to poor people on inflatable screens, funded by advertisements from big companies.

Each of them was entrepreneurial, certainly, but quite what "social" means is less clear. The Czech organisation, Bily Kruh Bezpeci, founded by Petra Vitousova, is never going to turn a profit, nor should it try to do so. Ariel Zylbersztejn, the managing director of Mexico's Cinepop, by contrast, boasts that his entertainment-based platform allows business and government to target otherwise inaccessible markets. He has ambitious plans to expand, not least to China. His brand of social entrepreneurship could make him rich.

Still, both he and Ms Vitousova are doing interesting things, and they seemed to find inspiration from each other. Perhaps it does not really matter exactly how "social entrepreneur" is defined if such impressive people feel good and part of a supportive community when they use the term to describe themselves.

Pamela Hartigan, who runs the Schwab Foundation, seems to think what all these social entrepreneurs have in common is that they are "unreasonable people". She means this as a compliment. Indeed, she has just written a fascinating book, with John Elkington, the founder of Sustainability, a consultancy, celebrating "The Power of Unreasonable People: How Social Entrepreneurs Create Markets and Change the World." The title is inspired by playwright George Bernard Shaw, who once said, "The reasonable man adapts himself to the world, the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man."

The gist of the book is that established businesses should carefully watch—and be ready to invest in—various forms of social entrepreneurship, which tend to be good at spotting profitable opportunities in unlikely places, not least amongst poorer consumers at the so-called "bottom of the pyramid". Mr Yunus has showed that even the poorest borrowers can be good customers, and as a result huge amounts of profit-seeking capital have flowed into the microfinance industry all over the world. Ms Hartigan and Mr Elkington reckon that social entrepreneurs will uncover other profitable new industries.

As well as courting business, social entrepreneurs are also increasingly looking to expand into partnerships with governments. Indeed, the strongest theme uniting the social entrepreneurs in Zurich (besides their unreasonableness) is the realisation that they need to work with government or business, or both, if they are to succeed on the large scale to which they aspire.

In the early days, social entrepreneurs saw themselves as an alternative to business or government. Today, they want to be partners, seeing business and government as assets to be leveraged. This is probably a good thing, provided it does not dull their creativity or cause them to be more reasonable.

In some ways, social entrepreneurship has reached a crossroads. As it has become better known, expectations have been raised; the next few years will show whether these expectations are justified and these social entrepreneurs can deliver. This will depend on them mastering the nitty-gritty of managing a growing organisation, including everything from a proper budgeting process and human-resource policies to succession planning and corporate governance.

Unreasonable people are not always gifted at such mundane tasks. Moreover, the community of social entrepreneurs gathered in Zurich is tight, built on long-standing personal connections that allow them to solve problems and find resources in unorthodox ways. To go mainstream will require adapting to a more open and perhaps more impersonal environment.

Yet, if the next phase in the evolution of the social entrepreneur goes well, both business and government will be significantly improved, not least in the poorer and less well-run parts of the world. Perhaps, eventually, it will be impossible to be regarded as an effective politician or social activist if you are not also entrepreneurial, or a successful entrepreneur if you do not address social needs. In that case, the term social entrepreneur, whatever it means, will no longer be necessary—but its disappearance from the dictionary will symbolise its triumph. Is that such an unreasonable thing to hope for?

Saturday, February 9, 2008

"Stirring Up the MDGs at Trinity Church, Boston" -- by Lallie Lloyd

When I speak to congregations, people often ask how they can get started toward the MDGs. I’m going to use my blogs for the next few months to tell about what we’re doing in my new congregation, and we’ll if our experience is useful!

When Bruce and I moved to Boston in November, we joined Trinity Church. I lived in a suburb of Boston until 2006 and worked with people from Trinity in the early years of EGR, so it was no surprise one Sunday coffee hour when my friend, Paul asked if I’d meet with him and another friend, Warren, to see if we could re-energize the Trinity community around the MDGs.

We met for lunch and talked. I needed to know a few things: What’s the history of the MDGs at Trinity? Is the rector an advocate? What’s her leadership style? Where do we want Trinity to be on the MDGs in three years? What might we reasonably accomplish in the short-term to get us started?

Here is some of the context for the MDGs at Trinity: Five years ago there was a nascent movement for the MDGs; many are still here, doing wonderful things. Last year and the year before, Paul and Warren led Lenten book discussion groups about the MDGs. EGR board member and Five Talents executive director Craig Cole spoke at our adult forum in the fall. That same morning, some women weavers from the women’s cooperative Judith Radtke founded in Mexico sat nearby and worked on their looms. Trinity’s rector Anne Bonnyman supports the MDGs and has preached about them.

Over lunch Paul, Warren and I decided we needed to gather more people – people who’ve been on board for a while, people who are ready to re-connect and people who are ready to learn about the MDGs for the first time. The longer-term decisions would be made by this larger group.

We agreed we could pull together a movie and conversation night on fairly short notice - a jump start gathering to connect and invite new people in, to form a group that would decide where to go from there. We picked a Sunday evening a few weeks out (Feb 24) and chose to show The Girlin the Café after the 6pm Eucharist. I agreed to handle the specifics of room, equipment, food, publicity. We generated a list of people to call and divided them up.

My ministry for the MDGs is a ministry of speaking, teaching and writing. I love this work, and I spend a lot of time alone at my computer. One thing I know is that I need to invest in my connections with people who share my passion and commitment to the MDGs. In addition to Paul, Warren, Judith and others, I am grateful for Rachel Anderson, director of the Boston Faith and Justice Network. Rachel is an organizer with Devon Anderson and the team in Minnesota on their MDG campaign (see Jan 17 EGR blog post). BFJN is building an ecumenical Christian community in Boston committed to economic discipleship, fair trade and the MDGs as a way of living the MDGs daily. I look forward to connecting more with BFJN.

So here’s my advice so far:

1. 1. Find others with time and energy to give to the MDGs.

2. 2. Do everything as a team.

3. 3. Know your local context (history and leadership) about the MDGs.

4. 4. Build on existing learning and gathering opportunities (worship, education, etc.)

5. 5. Organize an event you can manage (make it fun, easy to come to, include food and build in time for people to connect).

6. 6. Invite people personally.

7. 7. Know what you’re aiming for and make sure your first step heads in that direction.

8. 8. Invest in relationships that encourage and support you for the long haul.

Stay tuned!

Friday, February 8, 2008

"If it was not for the women, you wouldn't have a church" - by The Micah Challenge

Today's post is from the Micah Challenge, a global Christian campaign to achieve the MDGs. Part of their mission is a weekly prayer emailing like the one you see below. You can receive it in your email box every week send a blank email to with the words 'subscribe prayer' in the subject line.

"If it was not for the women, you wouldn’t have a church."

This bold statement is made by Nyambura J Njoroge in the Africa Bible Commentary on the role of women in the church.
‘There can be no denying that women and men are created equal in the image of God. Thus we must not focus on the gender roles that society, church and African cultures have assigned to women. The focus should fall on the biblical call for all human beings to discern what is the will of God in their lives.’
Please reflect on Romans 12:1-8 where the apostle Paul urges both brothers and sisters to be available to God as an act of worship.
‘Women have a critical and prophetic role to play in ‘stirring the waters’ and ‘speaking the truth’ by asserting their God-given humanity and gifts – not for their own sake but for the sake of the integrity of the gospel.’

Let us pray:

* Nyambura J Njoroge says: ‘Women still face a daunting task in advocating and modelling gender justice in the church and in society.’ - Please pray for sensitivity and wisdom as women and men around the world boldly work towards achieving this task.

* Reflecting on the statistic below: we praise God for a closing of the gender gap in health and education. We pray that political and economic leaders will increase their efforts to decrease the gender gap in women’s economic participation and political empowerment.

* Micah Challenge coordinator in Bolivia, Roxana Villarroel, asks for prayer for the large number of poor families affected by climate change in the country. She writes:
We are expecting another year with bad news due to the Niña Phenomenon (a climatic phenomenon which causes the waters of the pacific ocean to become unusually cold and as a result produces storms; in recent decades this has been the cause of major climatic disasters) and thousands of families will be affected. A recently released government report has registered 13,883 families whose houses were damaged and at least 18 people have died.

This news must call us to reflect and to mobilize as, as so often, the affected people are those with little opportunity to protect themselves. As people of God we must learn to practice justice. Let us be sure that the church is there to act with love and compassion.

Please pray for our campaign plans this year and the challenges that we face. May God in his mercy help us to be faithful in the ministry.
* Micah Challenge Haiti is organixing a seminar on Integral Mission for all theological seminaries and bible schools in the country.

o Please pray that the participants will be enthusiastic to learn and be motivated to apply what they have learnt in the curricula of their colleges.

o Dr Elaine Storkey as she teaches the main sessions. Please pray for clarity and wisdom so that her teaching can be easily applied in the Haitian context.

Meditate on the Statistics

As you spend time in prayer and reflection, you may like to take a moment to silently understand with your heart the focus statistic we include each week (see below). Our hope is that you will find this series of statistics a useful resource in preparing presentations.

Goal 3: Promote gender equality and empower women

Indicator 10: Ratio of literate women to men, 15-24 years old
Indicator 11: Share of women in wage employment in the non-agricultural sector
Indicator 12: Proportion of seats held by women in national parliament

The global overview of the Gender gap ‘shows that the 128 countries covered, representing over 90% of the world’s population, are close to eliminating the gap between women and men’s health and education outcomes: almost 92% of the educational outcomes gap and 96% of the health outcomes gap has been closed. However the gap between women and men on economic participation and political empowerment remains wide: only 58% of the economic outcomes gap and only 14% of the political outcomes gap has been closed.’

Source: The Global Gender Gap Report 2007, World Economic Forum 2007

The Global Gender Gap Report 2007 is based on a new methodology and includes detailed profiles that provide insight into the economic, legal and social aspects of the gender gap in each country. The Report measures the size of the gender gap in four critical areas of inequality between men and women:

1) Economic participation and opportunity – outcomes on salaries, participation levels and access to high-skilled employment
2) Educational attainment – outcomes on access to basic and higher level education
3) Political empowerment – outcomes on representation in decision-making structures
4) Health and survival – outcomes on life expectancy and sex ratio

Yours in Christ,
Regine and MC team

Please view all the Friday Prayer statistics we’ve used to date at Index of Millennium Development Goal Statistics.xls

Please see Index of Reflections on Integral Mission.xls

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

"The Desert" by Craig Cole

How many times have we felt like we were walking in a spiritual desert? Places in our lives where we felt our spiritual life was dry and parched. Times where we felt God had abandoned us, or maybe where we had abandoned God. Have we stopped trusting God? Jeremiah describes those who don’t trust God as ones who are living in the “wilderness, a land of salt without inhabitant.

In working with the poor here in the US and overseas, I have seen those who are physically thirsty. I have seen the poor villagers who have to walk up to eight hours just to fetch their daily rations of water. For us, it’s a short walk from the couch to the kitchen sink or to the bottled water in the refrigerator. In our physical lives, we are never thirsty.

It sometimes seems we have to walk a long distance before we find God’s presence, again. Believe it or not, our wanderings through the stark wilderness are essential for our spiritual growth. The trials Jesus faced in the desert served to strengthen him for his three-year ministry. The trick for us is to recognize when we are going through a spiritual desert and to use it to grow closer to God, not to use it as an excuse to abandon him.

Lent is a time to realize our spiritual desires, which we repress through distraction, entertainment and the belief that life is going along fine. We have to understand we are spiritually poor while others in many places in the world suffer from a physical poverty that cries out for justice.

Our walk through the Lenten desert is one way to strengthen us for our work to serve the poor. It is difficult and emotionally draining to stare at the barren truth day after day. People die of malnutrition, from preventable diseases and other tragedies that go without notice.

For in reality, God never leaves us to die of spiritual thirst. It’s really only a short walk into the arms of God. A God who will fill our cups to overflowing if we allow him to. He doesn’t deliver tap water or sparkling water; he serves us life-giving water that quenches our parched lips. As Jeremiah writes, “Blessed is the man who trusts in the lord...for he will be like a tree planted by the water, that extends its roots by a stream.”

Craig Cole is the executive director of Five Talents International, an Anglican microfinance nonprofit. He is also a member of the Diocese of Virginia's Mission Commission and an EGR board member.

"Hospitality in a Suspicious World" -- by Kate Clark, BBC News

This piece was broadcast on the program "From Our Own Correspondent" on BBC Radio 4 on Saturday, January 26 at 11:30 GMT. To find out when this excellent show is broadcast on BBC Radio 4 and BBC World Service (both available streaming on the internet) click here. Subscribe to the podcast here.

Working as a Westerner in the Muslim world has been complicated by the conflicts of recent years but BBC correspondent Kate Clark who has worked in Iraq, Afghanistan and Gaza still finds delight in the hospitality and kindness of strangers.

The taxi driver was calling me back. It was late at night in Irbil, and there was a problem with the fare.

We had spent the half hour journey chatting. He told me he was struggling to bring up a young family on a low income and with soaring inflation.

"Rent," he said, "had gone up five-fold and petrol prices 20-fold since 2003."

So I paid him a bit extra. He called me back to argue over the money because he thought I had paid him too much.

"Why do you go to such dangerous places?" people often ask me. They mean dangerous, Muslim countries. I usually report from Afghanistan, Pakistan and the Middle East.

"Do you have to wear a headscarf?" I'm asked.

"Do you ever feel threatened as a woman?"

It is difficult to explain that the sort of generosity and open-heartedness shown by the Kurdish taxi driver is very compelling and very normal across the Islamic world. It is generally a good place to be a guest.

But it has become more complicated.

Bin Laden's war and the US-UK military response, and the polarisation between the Western and Islamic worlds mean such ordinary human encounters have become more difficult.

Western journalists are now targets for some Muslims in some Muslim countries. And it does not matter what we actually do or believe, we may be considered enemies.

In Afghanistan, foreign reporters and aid workers used to work alongside every faction in the long civil war.

When I lived there before 2001, there was very little anti-Western sentiment, not even from the Taliban.

They still remembered Western support during the 1980s for the jihad against the Soviet occupation, so when the US criticised them, they were actually surprised, nonplussed.

These days, many Afghans, including some friends, speak darkly of Western conspiracies to oppress the Umma, the global Muslim community. And now I am nervous just walking down the street in Kabul.

Places in Pakistan where I used to go on holiday have become strongholds of the Pakistani Taleban.

Basra, in southern Iraq, where in 2003, I drove around with a female producer and was invited in for tea or lunch by interviewees, is now ruled over by hard-line religious militias.

In East Jerusalem and the West Bank, where I lived in the late 1980s, life was extremely tough.

It was during the first Palestinian intifada - the uprising against the Israeli military occupation - and there were curfews, strikes and clashes.

In one of the Gazan refugee camps, I remember an adult carefully explaining to a small child who had picked up a stone to throw at me, that this would be shameful - I was a guest.

People would send a child out to buy a can of cola for me - they could not afford a whole bottle. Actually, they could not afford a can either.

Palestinians were generous despite their bleak, constrained lives. Lives which, they were usually too polite to point out, my country was historically, partly responsible for.

The kidnapping of Western journalists in Gaza would have been unimaginable when I was there 20 years ago.

The dangers make operating as a journalist very difficult.

You want to find out what is going on. And you particularly want to hear from the marginalised and powerless.

But how can you do that if the only way you see a country is by being embedded with the British or American army?

Who tells the stories of civilians in Iraq or southern Afghanistan? Indeed, who tells the stories of Taleban foot soldiers?

And if that is not done, who is to know whether the American military or the British government or the Afghan president sitting in Kabul or indeed the Taleban spokesmen are telling the truth or not?

In some places, you now have to work out more devious ways to report.

In September, the British were assuring everyone that life in Basra was fine. But it was too risky to go, so I did my interviews by phone.

People said music was banned and assassinations commonplace. "The ruling religious militias," they said, "were like Shia Taleban."

In Afghanistan, I continue to travel.

I have met members of the Taleban and spoken to civilians from areas affected by fighting and discovered richer and more complex truths than the official views.

Complaints about political exclusion, predation by provincial authorities and economic hardship seem to drive men to fight more frequently than jihadi ideology.

Afghanistan remains a place where strangers offer you tea and a bed for the night, where proverbially, people say that, when faced with guests, what is important is not how big your house is, but how big your heart is.

But the threat of violence means travel has become a cautious business.

Visiting Iraqi Kurdistan, then, was a treat. It is Iraq and it is safe. I encountered everything I like about the Islamic world, without any fear.

When I eventually managed to pay the Kurdish taxi driver his extra fare, I thought, "this wouldn't happen in London".

But actually it does sometimes.

If the driver is Afghan or Pakistani or Iraqi and we chat about his home country, I do quite often end up trying to drive the fare up, while he endeavours to drive it down.