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Poverty Bible

DAVID ADAMS and PENNY MULVEY report on this week’s launch of the Poverty and Justice Bible at Micah Challenge’s annual Voices for Justice gathering in Canberra…

When former US President Thomas Jefferson physically cut passages out of his Bible, it was to delete any references to the supernatural in line with his deist beliefs. More recently, when US author and activist Jim Wallis and his colleagues at Sojourners magazine cut out all references to social justice in the Bible, it was to show how incomplete it was without them.

Now comes the release of a new Bible which picks up on the idea but, instead of cutting out verses, highlights in orange more than 2000 verses which address issues of poverty and justice.

Poverty Bible

NEW BIBLE: Prime Minister Kevin Rudd is presented with a copy of the Poverty and Justice Bible while Opposition Leader Malcolm Turnbull watches on.

“As we have seen with the global financial crisis, the developed world is able to find the funds to address an important cause. Well, we believe that the 1.4 billion people still living in extreme poverty, on less than $1.25 a day, represent not just an important cause but a moral cause as well.”

– John Beckett, Micah Challenge national coordinator

The new Poverty and Justice Bible – the result of a collaboration between World Vision and the Bible Society – was launched in Canberra this week as some 270 people gathered to take part in Micah Challenge’s Voices for Justice – a two day annual gathering in which Micah Challenge supporters are involved in lobbying the Government and Opposition MPs on the issue of global poverty.

Prime Minister Kevin Rudd recalled both Jefferson’s efforts and those of Rev Wallis as he spoke at a breakfast on Monday where the Bible was launched. But the new Poverty and Justice Bible, he told the audience, was an improvement, overcoming the challenge of what happens to the text on the reverse side when cutting out passages. “It’s just colored in,” he said.

Mr Rudd congratulated those behind the development of the Bible which he said draws attention to “the challenge of Micah, the challenge of John, the challenge facing us all as an informed community of faith”.

He said Christianity was not an individualistic, pietistic retreat into oneself “in pursuit of some microscopic spirituality”.

“It is a tradition alive in the fact that faith without works is dead, and that the Christian doctrine to which you all aspire, and which you all believe, is one that is both about individual spirituality and a parallel commitment to social justice.”

The Opposition Leader, Malcolm Turnbull, noted the highlighted verses included his favorite passage from Isaiah 41:17 – “When the poor and needy are dying of thirst and cannot find water, I, the Lord God of Israel, will come to their rescue.”

Exhorting Australians to take on the responsibility of caring for their neighbour, he issued a challenge to all Australians, saying that if we believe strongly in justice, then “you should act to alleviate poverty and suffering, give something of yourself to others”.

Mr Turnbull said it was important to support the work of organisations who are working “on the ground” to give poor communities food, water, skills for life and hope.

Both Mr Rudd and Mr Turnbull also spoke of the significance and commitment of those taking part in Micah Challenge – a coalition of more than 30 Christian aid and development agencies which has the support of more than 101,000 people across Australia who have signed up to a statement committing themselves to the work of ending global poverty.

But in a statement released after the breakfast, Micah Challenge supporters – who meet with 129 MPs and Senators during the two day Voices for Justice gathering – noted that neither political party had yet made a commitment to meeting the international aid target of 0.7 per cent of gross national income, a figure agreed to by all UN nations in the year 2000.

poverty and justice Bible c

The new Poverty and Justice Bible

John Beckett, national coodinator of the Micah Challenge, said there have been “enough excuses” about why Australia couldn’t do it’s “fair share”.

“As we have seen with the global financial crisis, the developed world is able to find the funds to address an important cause,” he noted. “Well, we believe that the 1.4 billion people still living in extreme poverty, on less than $1.25 a day, represent not just an important cause but a moral cause as well. We call (on) both the Government and the Opposition to make a firm and timetabled commitment to increasing Australia’s giving to the world’s poorest to 0.7 per cent of national income.”

Micah Challenge supporters have declared they will be campaigning on the issue in the lead-up to the next Federal election and are inviting churches, schools and community groups to hold ‘Survive Past Five’ birthday parties in every electorate, in a statement advocating for the 8.8 million children who die annually before their fifth birthdays. Ninety-five politicians signed a fifth birthday card sent to the Prime Minister during this year’s Voices for Justice gathering. 

The new Poverty and Justice Bible is the result of countless hours of work. Bible Society staff and experts spent months scouring the Bible for references to poverty and justice and eventually came up with 2,848 highlighted sections – including 2,130 in the Old Testament and 718 in the New – stretching from Genesis to Revelation.

As well as the highlighting of passages, the Poverty and Justice Bible, which is in the Contemporary English Version, includes a 32 page study guide which covers subjects ranging from equality and education to farming and Fairtrade.

The Poverty and Justice Bible can be bought from the Bible Society and Christian bookshops.


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