Can Rockers and Religious Leaders End Poverty?

A coalition of the glamorous and the pious see a golden opportunity.

Hunger and poverty have been plaguing humanity since ancient times, and people of faith have been combating it just as long. But activists in that fight believe the world faces a unique opening to actually end extreme hunger--if world leaders get on board.

Faith leaders describing this opportunity are using phrases like "a confessional moment," "a new civil rights movement," and "new abolitionists" fighting "the new slavery" to describe this upsurge of interest in poverty.

"There's a kind of crescendo of concern building around this issue," said Jim McDonald, vice president of policy and programs at Bread for the World, a Christian anti-poverty organization.

That crescendo has built to a roar in recent days.

On July 3, in eight cities around the world, a dizzying array of pop and rock superstars performed in concerts aimed at raising awareness about poverty in Africa.

The event-dubbed Live 8-took place just days before the Group of Eight (G8) Summit meeting in Scotland, at which representatives from the world's wealthiest nations are discussing African aid and debt relief. Live 8 was the brainchild of Bob Geldof, formerly of the Boomtown Rats (and now Sir Bob Geldof). It comes almost 20 years after the 1985 Live Aid concert, also spearheaded by Geldof, which raised money for African famine relief.


Now, with the concerts over and the G8 Summit beginning, activists are keeping the pressure on.

Though "G8 Summit" and "debt relief" seem like rallying cries more fit for a political science conference than a pulpit or concert hall, religious leaders and celebrities are demanding that world leaders double aid to Africa and cancel all national debts for the poorest countries. The effect is that a coalition of the glamorous and the pious, including such figures as the conservative evangelical Rick Warren, the liberal evangelical Jim Wallis, the Dalai Lama, U2's Bono, and the former Beatle Paul McCartney, are turning the pressure on world leaders gathering in Gleneagles, Scotland--for decisions that will make good on their earlier pledges to permanently end hunger in Africa.

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Michael Kress
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