Getting uncomfortable: why we’re joining the Moral Imperative to End Extreme Poverty

Rev. John L. McCullough | April 8, 2015

As Church World Service, we endorse this Imperative as an important first step in calling on the powerful to help the powerless. Rev. John McCullough, CEO of CWS #faith2endpoverty

Photo: Lisa Hayes/ CWS

My first call after I was ordained as a minister in the United Methodist Church was to a wealthy congregation in Massachusetts. It was a comfortable assignment, but it wasn’t where I needed to stay. God was about to call me to a very uncomfortable place.

I left New England for a small village in the semi-arid plains of Kenya, where there was only one road in and out. It took four hours to go 40 kilometers, the average high temperature was 110 degrees and electricity was an afterthought.

I had a job to do, and faith – my constant compass – pointed me in a new direction, albeit uncomfortable.

So, too, are we called today in renewing our commitment to those CWS serves as part of the World Bank’s Moral Imperative to End Extreme Poverty. In joining leaders from other faith traditions, we are asking a world that has grown comfortable with allowing extreme hunger and poverty to exist to set a course for a new direction.

The new direction will be uncomfortable for many. In an age of unprecedented wealth, we’re asking not for redistribution of wealth, but for a permanent fix to the systems of injustice that keep the poor in poverty’s grip. We are asking the global north not just to take a hard look in the mirror, but to identify and fix those policies and practices that allow extreme poverty and hunger to continue.

We, as CWS, are also answering the call to take a look at ourselves. We will act on the Imperative’s mandate that we, as humanitarians, apply only evidence-based methodologies that are sustainable. Solutions that work and involve communities. And are supported by monitoring and evaluation that ensure effectiveness.

Our faith calls us to call on the powerful in seeking a better world for the powerless. It also calls on us to consider our own roles and be responsible. Those we serve deserve nothing less than our best efforts – divinely inspired, a witness to power and accountable in effectiveness.

Tightening our commitment to a better world and renewing our call to act may feel uncomfortable at first. It will challenge us. It will challenge our beliefs, and the systems upon which many of us have found a comfortable life. But that’s nothing compared to the peace we will feel in a world where we knew we had the ability to end extreme poverty, and chose to end it.

Rev. John L. McCullough is the President and CEO of Church World Service.


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