I've been reading quite a bit today on how the world is doing in meeting the UN's Millenium Development Goals that were established in 2000. If you are not familiar with them, the goals are:
1. Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger.
2. Achieve universal primary education.
3. Promote gender equality and empower women.
4. Reduce child mortality.
5. Improve maternal health.
6. Combat HIV and AIDS, malaria, and other disease.
7. Ensure environmental sustainability.
8. Develop a global partnership for development.
As we have now reached the half-way point, various reports have been issued examining just how successful we have been in meeting these goals. Great strides have been made in reducing child mortality, the number of people living in extreme poverty has been reduced by 130 million, overall incomes have increased as has life expectancy. While there has been some very encouraging progress made, it would appear that the progress has been far from uniform as the growth in some countries has far outweighed the growth in others (See the UN Millennium Project website for more information.)
More troubling is the failure of the G8 nations to live up to their commitment to double their aid to struggling nations by 2010. According to World Vision's ChildView Magazine, the world's richest countries are only 14% of the way toward meeting that goal. With the recent economic turbulence around the globe, it is unlikely that we'll see much progress made until world markets stabilize again.
As I read an article on global poverty in The Link & Visitor, a Canadian Baptist Women's magazine, one line in particular jumped out at me: "Clearly, we are not doing enough." Will we ever do enough? Can we ever meet even one of the millennium development goals? Will we ever see a day when no man, woman, or child has to beg for food? It would seem to me that the human race has been dedicating itself to these issues for a very long time, and while the MDG's have made a significant impact, as has the work of everyone from field workers "in the trenches" to celebrity spokespeople, I don't know that it is "enough" or that we will ever do "enough." All of our efforts, all of our awareness campaigns, all of our pleas to feed the world will fall short without a fundamental change in the human heart.
Frankly, we cannot force people to care about their neighbours, to share from their own wealth, to do all they can to improve the lives of others, without mercy and compassion being planted deep in the heart. And I know of no other way to do that then to introduce people to Jesus and the love that He offers. All of our human efforts will eventually fail, but with a heart full of compassion, those who ask the question "who is my neighbour" will eventually be led to the answer found in the parable of the good samaritan:
"Now which of these three would you say was a neighbour to the man who was attacked by bandits?" The man replied, "The one who showed him mercy." Then Jesus said, "Yes, now go and do the same." (Luke 10: 36-37)
May we who call ourselves Jesus followers not fail to demonstrate what it means to be good neighbours, whether they are next door or on the other side of the globe.