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Deutsche Presse-Agentur
London – Hundreds of Anglican bishops led a protest march through central London Thursday urging world governments to show the “political will” to fulfil pledges of eradicating global poverty by 2015.
The colourful march, which turned the government centre of Whitehall into a sea of bishops’ purple, was led by Rowan Williams, the head of the worldwide Anglican Church.
It was spearheaded by around 600 bishops and joined by other faith leaders, politicians, diplomats and charity groups, swelling the total number of participants to over 2,000.
Prime Minister Gordon Brown, who addressed a final rally at Lambeth Palace, the London seat of the Archbishop of Canterbury, said the bishops had staged the “greatest public demonstration of faith” Britain had ever seen.
The bishops had sent a “symbol and a very clear message” that poverty must – and will – be eradicated in line with the so-called Millennium Development Goals (MBGs) laid down in 2000.
“A hundred years is too long to wait for justice and that is why we must act now,” said Brown.
Williams, followed by bishops from around the world who are currently attending the Anglican Church’s Lambeth Conference, marched behind a huge banner calling on governments to halve world poverty by 2015.
The churches could “not stand by and let promises be broken,” Williams said in a letter handed to Brown. “The cause is not a lack of resources, but a lack of global political will.”
“Because our faith challenges us to eradicate poverty, and not merely to reduce it, we should all be more alarmed that with the halfway mark to 2015 passed, it is clear that most of these achievable targets will not be met,” said the letter.
Fulfilment of the goals was especially urgent as climate change and rising food prices were already hitting the poorest hardest, said Williams.
The march came as Britain’s leading aid charity Oxfam warned that 13 million people in East Africa are at risk of hunger and destitution as food prices spiral out of control.
A situation already marked by droughts, war and poverty was made worse by rising food prices which had increased by 350 per cent in some regions between 2007 and 2008, Oxfam said in a report issued in London Thursday.
Oxfam joined calls on donors from other international aid groups to increase aid levels to Somalia, Ethiopia and Kenya.
Its call followed a warning from the UN World Food Programme which said that more than 14 million people in the Horn of Africa needed food aid because of drought and rising food and fuel prices.
Oxfam’s Rob McNeil, who has toured Somalia and the Afar region of Ethiopia, said the cost of food had escalated by up to 500 per cent in some places and people were becoming desperate.
“I saw people in one village reduced to pounding the food pellets intended for their animals into porridge to feed their families. We fear that the worst could be yet to come as the crisis deteriorates across East Africa,” his report said.
In Somalia, the cost of imported rice increased by up to 350 per cent between the beginning of 2007 and May 2008, while in areas of Ethiopia, the price of wheat had more than doubled over a six-month period.
According to Oxfam, 2.6 million people in Somalia – or 35 per cent of the population – required emergency assistance, a need that could apply to half the country’s population by the end of this year.
In Ethiopia, the government estimated that 4.6 million people were in need of emergency food assistance, twice as many as at the beginning of the year.
In Turkana, northern Kenya, an Oxfam survey showed that 25 per cent of children were suffering from acute malnutrition, the highest in the country.
Copyright 2008 dpa Deutsche Presse-Agentur GmbH

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