The response of a variety of faith groups to poverty in Africa, Asia and Latin America is the subject of a television special to be aired by CBS on April 26.
“Poverty: A Time for Sharing” documents the work of Protestant, Catholic and Mennonite Christians, Jews and Muslims in responding to immediate need and empowering indigenous people to control their own lives on three continents.
The special is produced with the cooperation of the National Council of Churches — which includes the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) — as well as the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, The Islamic Society of North American, The Union for Reform Judaism and the New York Board of Rabbis.
Half of humanity lives on less than $2 a day. A billion people worldwide cannot read or write. Poor children die in great numbers from preventable diseases. Global poverty and its killing effect is on the rise despite ongoing efforts by governments, the United Nations and non-governmental organizations (NGOs), including religious groups.
For example, many Americans think malaria has been wiped out, but in Africa a poor child dies of the disease every 30 seconds. The UN Foundation started the “Nothing But Nets” campaign in 2006 in which a $10 contribution buys a mosquito net to protect youngsters while asleep. Numerous faith groups — including Presbyterians, Methodists, Lutherans and the Union for Reform Judaism — have joined the effort.
In the documentary, United Methodist Bishop Tom Bickerton, an official spokesperson for the “Nets” campaign, Elizabeth McKee Gore of the UN Foundation, and sports columnist Rick Reilly of ESPN take an up-close look at the nets’ effectiveness.
Another segment illustrates the self-help work of American Jewish World Service (AJWS) with some 400 grassroots groups in 36 countries. AJWS president Ruth Messinger says, “They need a partner to provide financial and technical assistance and, from time to time, wonderful, skilled volunteers.”
AJWS’s work with children in India and women and teenage girls in El Salvador — which parallels work done by the PC(USA)’s Self-Development of People program — is depicted in the special.
The work of Mennonite Christians is presented by Arli Klassen, executive director of the Mennonite Central Committee, and Jim Bowman, former MCC representative in Kenya. Their work with the poor and war-afflicted in 66 countries is illustrated by a mobile health clinic in Laos, which gives vaccinations and medical attention to mothers and newborns. Bowman also describes in the show how building a dam to trap water-retaining sand provides a Kenyan village with drinking water during the dry season.
Islamic Relief uses donations from American Muslims to serve the world’s poor in 35 countries. Natasha Issak, a fundraiser in the northeast United States, and Yousef Abdullah, operations manager of the Northeast Regional Office of Islamic Relief, take viewers to Afghanistan, where they set up training programs to empower that country’s enormous number of widows and orphans created by decades of war.
Abdullah also describes a refugee camp in Sudan where Islamic Relief has dug wells and built clinics and schools serving 11,000 people.
Annemarie Reilly, chief of staff of Catholic Relief Services — the worldwide relief arm of the U.S. Catholic Church — shows viewers the service’s work in response to the 2004 Indonesian tsunami, community development projects drilling wells in Ethiopia, working with Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity caring for the poor and dying, and holistic approaches used to serve HIV-positive people in Zambia.
Check local TV listings for broadcast time of “Poverty: A Time for Sharing” in your area.
Information for this story furnished by Jeremy Murphy, CBS Television Network.