Joseph Kelly

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Faith groups are integral to eradicating poverty, CAFOD Director tells UN

Faith groups are integral to eradicating poverty, CAFOD’s Director has told the United Nations in New York.

Speaking at a UN General Assembly ‘side-event’, Christine Allen emphasised the importance of the role of the Church and faith communities in delivering Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

“When other examples of services fail, the Church’s faith communities are there,” she said.

“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.”

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

The event took place as world leaders, such as Emmanuel Macron, Angela Merkel and Jacinda Ardern, attended a climate change summit, convened by UN Secretary General António Guterres.

The CAFOD Director noted that faith groups are trusted by communities and can provide access to communities which are hard-to-reach.

Christine Allen spoke about her experience of meeting faith leaders in DR Congo in July 2019. She shared how Catholic and Islamic leaders are addressing the spread of Ebola in DR Congo by tackling stigma and providing local communities with safe and dignified burials.

“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,” she said.

“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 Church is a trusted voice, and that opens doors in a very big way,” she said.

“It’s an opportunity that’s missed if we’re not worked with.”

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

Picture: CAFOD director Christine Allen joined Jewish, Islamic and Buddhist leaders in explaining how faith communities can help deliver the UN Sustainable Development Goals in New York on 24 September 2019. (UN Web TV)

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