CAFOD Director tells UN: “World needs to work with faith groups to eradicate poverty”

24 September 2019

Christine is speaking at the UN about the role that faith leaders like Monsignor Xavier are playing in delivering the Sustainable Development Goals

Christine Allen spoke at the UN about the role faith leaders like Monsignor Xavier play in delivering the Sustainable Development Goals

CAFOD Director Christine Allen has warned at the United Nations in New York that governments won’t eradicate poverty without working with faith groups.

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Christine made the warning at a ‘side-event’ held at the UN General Assembly which focused on the role of faith communities in delivering the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), giving the example of how Catholic and Islamic leaders have helped to tackle the spread of Ebola in DR Congo.

The SDGs are a set of commitments made by world leaders in 2015 to end extreme poverty by 2030 – including by tackling climate change, fighting inequality, and ensuring everyone has clean water.

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Why are faith groups important for delivering the SDGs?

Speaking in New York, Christine explained how Catholic and Islamic leaders have helped to prevent the spread of Ebola in DRC, tackling stigma and providing safe and dignified burials to local communities. 

Christine met faith leaders in DR Congo when visiting our trusted local experts in the country in July 2019.

The CAFOD Director noted that faith groups play an important role in tackling poverty and delivering the SDGs because they are trusted by communities, are present in communities and can provide access to communities which are hard-to-reach.

Christine said:

"The issue for me about the Church is that they're a trusted voice ... And that opens doors in a very big way."

Christine Allen, CAFOD Director

"I don't know if you've ever seen the personal protective equipment that people protecting themselves from Ebola are wearing, but they look a bit like spacemen – every bit of skin is covered.

"If you imagine being a community which is nervous and frightened and in comes someone having to be dressed like that, it's completely contrary to everything you feel as a human being.

"It dehumanises everything.

"The issue for me about the Church is that they're a trusted voice – the trust of saying: 'Here are people who are coming in to help you, you can trust these people'. And that opens doors in a very big way."

'When other services fail, the Church is there'

Christine added:

"The Church is present in communities not just in terms of the religious places of worship but actually in delivering services and providing the health and education services that exist. 

"When other examples of services fail, the Church's faith communities are there. It's an opportunity that's missed if we're not worked with."

Multi-faith event follows UN Climate Action Summit

The discussion, which took place in the 'SDG Action Zone' at the UN General Assembly, also heard from representatives from Jewish, Islamic and Buddhist development organisations.

The event took place a day after world leaders had taken part at a special summit on climate change, convened by UN Secretary General António Guterres to persuade governments to act urgently and protect poor communities from dangerous temperature rises.

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