Talking about faith at the UN Assembly

In a World Bank-hosted side event alongside the United Nations General Assembly this week, an opportunity arose to engage faith leaders around the world in the mission to end extreme poverty by 2030.

Despite what is seen in the media, there is a deep ocean of creative thought and action by faith groups dedicated to making the world a better place. 

The 'Moral Imperative' to end extreme po​​verty in our generation is a document in whose genesis World Vision has played a significant part this year. Signed off by leaders from multiple beliefs, it calls on people of faith around the world to embrace the commonly held themes of justice for the poor, mercy and love.

World Vision and Islamic Relief have worked especially hard together to demonstrate that people of faith can produce good outcomes when they work together, and it was a pleasure to share a seven minute speaking slot with Dr Mohamed Ashmawey, global CEO of Islamic Relief. After he outlined the process which has led us to this point with the Moral Imperative, this is what I said:

Hardly a day goes by without religion being in the news. The nature of the media is such that most of that coverage focuses on strife and extremism, but beneath the surface froth of negativity is a deep ocean of creative thought and action by faith groups dedicated to making the world a better place.

RELATED: BLOG: why faith is key to achieving the SDGs

Moved by a view of how a better world should be, by the appeal to love and justice in various holy writings, and by the example of selfless religious leaders in history and the modern age, people of faith will continue to shape the way societies and individuals are organised around the world.

It’s time to stand up and demonstrate the shared ancient virtues which draw us together.

Purpose of the Moral Imperative

Agreement on a “Moral Imperative” does not mean that we all believe the same things.

However, it does highlight common threads that run through all the major belief systems and draw us together.  Important foundations like the ‘Golden Rule of reciprocity and respect’ offer a practical basis for how to engage with others:

  • To do good to the widow and orphan;
  • To welcome the homeless stranger;
  • To treat the sick, and feed the hungry.

Through the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), with leadership from the World Bank and the United Nations, we have a remarkable opportunity to end the worst forms of hunger and poverty by 2030:

  • Over the past 25 years, the number of people in extreme poverty has fallen from two billion, to less than one billion.
  • It looks possible to complete the job, but only if we share an outrage against the indignity of poverty.
  • ‘Possible’ isn’t good enough, we must adopt a common position that it is our moral duty to do so.

That’s why my good friend, Mohamed, and I are committed to this Moral Imperative.

That’s why we are making a virtue of looking for ways in which a Christian organisation like World Vision, and a Muslim organisation like Islamic Relief, can work respectfully together for the benefit of the most vulnerable.

We will only succeed in tackling extreme poverty if we draw on the good will of the great majority who have a religious belief.

As a starting point, over the next seven days we are calling on believers around the world to join in prayer for the Sustainable Development Goals.

The SDGs speak of justice, generosity, treating our planet well, and being open-handed with the poor.  All themes that resonate with our understanding of the divine.

Today, hundreds of religious leaders, under the banner of action/2015, are calling on billions of believers to join in prayer for the success of these SDGs.

Some say that the dream of ending poverty doesn’t have a prayer – well it does now!​