Can Rockers and Religious Leaders End Poverty?

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

Continued from page 1

Underscoring the significance of the rock stars' involvement, British Prime Minister Tony Blair appeared Wednesday with Geldof and Bono and pledged to oppose reported U.S.-backed attempts to scale back the G8's Africa aid. The rock and religion coalition may have scored at least one victory this month, when the wealthy nation' foreign ministers agreed to erase more than $40 billion of the debt that 18 countries owe to the World Bank and other international organizations. But they see that decision as only the beginning of what's needed to pull Africa out of its seemingly perennial poverty-and a fraction of what is realistically achievable by the developed world.

"More and more people are beginning to realize that with technology and other advances, this can be the generation that ends extreme poverty," said Scott Jackson of World Vision, a relief organization associated with evangelical churches.


Even before Live 8 heated up the G8 activism, efforts to combat hunger in Africa had been picking up steam in recent weeks.

In May, U2's Bono helped launch the

ONE Campaign

, which is calling on the U.S. government to raise by 1 percent the amount of aid to Africa.

The effort-supported by a diverse array of faith groups-is the U.S. arm of an England-based organization called

Make Poverty History


. That group similarly advocates for increased aid to Africa and is asking supporters to wear white wristbands, styled after the yellow ones that Lance Armstrong popularized to promote the fight against cancer.

Catholics for Faithful Citizenship


, an Ohio-based advocacy group that lobbies for, among other things, trade agreements favorable to poorer countries, quotes the late Pope John Paul II as saying the poverty of billions of people worldwide is "the one issue that most challenges our human and Christian consciences."

In June, more than 1,000 representatives of more than 40 religious groups - Christians, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, and Hindus-gathered in the National Cathedral in Washington to pray for an end to global poverty. "There's a moral convergence happening among religious leaders on the issue of poverty," said the Rev. Jim Wallis, author and founder of the organization

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Michael Kress
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