U.N. partnering with faith groups
September 27th, 2010
01:37 PM ET

U.N. partnering with faith groups

Editor's Note: CNN White House Producer Xuan Thai filed this report from the U.N. General Assembly.

It might be called a match made in heaven. The United Nations is partnering with faith based organizations and their vast network of donors, development groups, and grass roots organizers to bring aid to developing countries around the world. You could say they are putting their money where their mouth is. Except both groups have been putting money up for a long time.

Last week during the annual U.N. General Assembly, the United Methodist Church announced a five year, $75 million pledge to the United Nations’ Global Fund, the first of its kind for the fund.

For 47-year-old Joyce Kamwana, the partnership is a validation of sorts, one she has long been looking for.

Kamwana is from the small southeast African nation of Malawi. She learned she was HIV positive in 1988. Her husband, Dan, brought the disease home. Luckily their two daughters were spared. Since then, Kamwana’s life has not been easy, especially within the church.

At first, the church was “condemning us. They say we deserve it because we have done something wrong so it was like a punishment from God,” Kamwana said of the initial reaction to her illness.

“It’s been difficult because way back then, having HIV was like having leprosy in the biblical times,” said Kamwana, who also lost her job as a result of her HIV status.

“There was also the stigma due to little information and so many people didn’t want to associate with me.” But the tide has turned and churches are now a fundamental part of the army working to combat the disease. Specifically Methodists and Lutherans are delivering the potent mix of passion, grass roots knowledge, and cash.

According to United Nations Foundation executive director Elizabeth Gore, this partnership is a natural step in the fight against global poverty and disease. The U.N. has seen immediate results from church contributions to her “Nothing but Nets” campaign to fight malaria.

“The United Nations has become very open to partnerships overall and faith-based institutions. Number one it's their mission to help people. It's almost in their DNA,” Gore said. “But they have a great capacity to give funding, which we need in all of our issue areas, particularly global health.”

Gore pointed out that the work cannot be done by the U.N. alone and the organization must, “engage whether it's with Muslim communities, Christian communities, Jewish communities and so on. We need them as our partners and to lead us. And the U.N. is an organization that's for everybody and it's led by everybody, so it just makes sense to establish these types of partnerships.”

More importantly, Gore said, the faith based groups know the people they are trying to help.

“They are there, and they live there, and they are helping people, they are feeding the poor, they are healing the sick, they are really working hard, and so it is a very effective partnership with us to save lives,” Gore said.

United Methodist Church Bishop Thomas Bickerton agrees this is a natural partnership too.
“It’s a wonderful opportunity for us as a faith-based organization to mobilize our 11 million members around a cause that makes a difference,” said Bickerton.

“Our people know that when they make a contribution that it’s literally going to save lives through insecticide treated bed nets, through prevention, through communication, through education, strengthening of infrastructures, so it’s a tangible way of getting people involved and its made perfect sense to me.”

The bishop pointed out the Methodist church has been active in mission work for over two centuries. They have built churches, orphanages, and hospitals, creating a reputation on the ground in Africa.

“The church is one of the most trusted delivery systems in the continent because we’ve educated, we’ve saved their lives in hospitals, we’ve saved their lives in clinics, we’ve sheltered the children in orphanages,” said Bickerton. “So when we come alongside government and secular partners we have our foot in the door already because we’ve been there for years so our campaign is to strengthen that infrastructure even more and that trust factor kicks in and more lives can be saved.”

Bickerton looks at this initial donation as not only a step in building a partnership with the United Nations but also as a challenge for other religious groups.

“Today are the first faith-based organization to be a participant in the global fund,” Bickerton said, ”and so we want to use that as a challenge to all other faith-based organizations to come on board because we’re not going to solve AIDS tuberculosis and malaria all by ourselves.”

For Joyce, it’s a relief that she is now welcomed by the churches that once shunned her.

“I’m happy they have come to their senses” Joyce said. “Now and it’s a good thing that they have decided to embrace us, the first major step that they’ve taken is to actually make a contribution to the global fund ,so that we are still kept alive because we can never have congregation if there are no people.”

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Africa • Church • Methodist

soundoff (27 Responses)
  1. cpmondello

    I just posted this on another topic....change a few words, youll get the point: In an ideal situation, "World Religions" would be part of a "World History" class, unfortunately, in the USA, there are far too many conservative Christians with power to rewrite history, make whole groups of people second class citizens by making laws against them, and travel the world trying to convert non-Christians through our Military, Politicians, humanitarian efforts and more. For example: In Texas, the school board has voted to remove Thomas Jefferson from the educational program for being a supporter of 'separation of church and state'. These new books will be published and the majority of schools across the USA will be using these same newly published education material. Also in Texas, school books are being re-written to be less anti-Christian and more anti-Muslim, and, "C Street", located in Washington DC, filled with conservative Christian extremists politicians who travel the world, most recently heard about their power in Uganda, where they supported the law makers there who want to make it the death penalty for being gay, and have expressed that those in Uganda need to act fast before they end up like the USA where gay people treated somewhat equal. Do some research. These people would not allow any religion but Christianity to be seen in a good light if taught in classes in the USA, when history proves that, Christianity is the reason so many people in the USA have been motivated to lynch black people, make gays second class citizens, fought against woman being allowed to vote, hunted down and killed others from different denominations, force all other's to pay for their "work" whether in the USA or around the world through tax exempt status, gifts or 'Faith-based initiatives'. Those in power, in all levels or education, government and the private sector, have become far to powerful and hell-bent on making the USA a Christian Nation, there is no way in hell, that they would let Christianity to ever be seen an taught as anything but perfect.

    September 28, 2010 at 8:14 am |
    • Mike

      History lesson in Christian and Salvery


      September 28, 2010 at 2:19 pm |
    • Muneef

      Accept to see this with all love and respect;

      Listen with your Ears,Read with your Eyes,Think with your Mind,Judge with your Heart find Truth for the Love of God. When you make one step towards God ,God makes ten towards you, you walk towards him,he comes running to you and that is Love of God is to connect with God through worship,behavior,prayers,praises,glorifies those clean heart deep from darkness of any satanic obsession,scruple,misgiving.

      They say some day some one will come to take you so very faraway and love will show the way..


      September 28, 2010 at 7:24 pm |
    • peace2all


      Wow... very well said my friend....


      September 28, 2010 at 7:26 pm |
  2. phil

    The UN believes it can bring peace to the earth. Any true Christian knows that only God's Kingdom Government can accomplish this feat. So the UN stands against God himself.

    September 28, 2010 at 1:19 am |
    • Reality


      Christianity will bring peace? Success rate so far is zero. The simple statement, "Do no Harm" has a much better chance in achieving the objective.

      September 28, 2010 at 8:24 am |
    • peace2all


      Spoken like a true Christian evangelical biblical literalist..... Spouting off about the 'End of Days' again are we....?

      Please... give us a break from the religious rhetoric non-sense....


      September 28, 2010 at 7:23 pm |
  3. Reality

    To say the least, the UN Global Fund is large with net assets near $4 billion. The directors of the fund make on average, $250,000/yr. Tis bothersome that these salaries far exceed those of our congresspersons whose annual salary is $174,000. Might the USA taxpayers/contributors to this fund require directors not to make more than our own leaders as part of the donation stipulations? (guidestar.org)

    What is however more disturbing is the Fund's investments which yielded almost $300 million dollars in 2008. Why do we allow any "non-profit" to invest our donations in the stock and bond market. They could have easily lost $300 million. And of course said "non-profits" do not pay taxes on the interest, dividends or capital gains. This practice also smells bad with respect to the managers of the funds getting kick-backs from mutual fund managers.

    Is there a better, less expensive way of controlling global AIDs, TB and malaria? A global CDC?

    September 27, 2010 at 4:36 pm |
    • honestann

      Very well said. Both posts – incontrovertible. Add to that the UN's desire to curb Americans' both First and Second Amendment rights.

      September 28, 2010 at 1:45 am |
  4. Reality

    As typical, the USA's taxpayers continue to be one of the big contributors to worthy causes.

    "In 2009 the United States government set a record by announcing it would make a contribution of $ 1.05 billion for the 2010 financial year, the highest amount ever pledged to the Global Fund by the US."

    "Over 100 members of Congress signed a letter to President Obama urging him to pledge $6 billion over the next three years to the Global Fund. Since every $1 the U.S. contributes has historically been matched with $2 from other donors, that's a smart investment. With the right funding commitments in place, the Global Fund can help ensure that no child is born with HIV by 2015, that we end the public health threat of malaria as we know it, and emerging drug resistant strains of TB are brought under control."

    So where is CNN's pat on the back for the USA taxpayers??

    September 27, 2010 at 3:44 pm |
  5. NL

    I imagine that conservative and fundamentalist leaders in America are right this very minute exchanging e-mails on how to redefine the UN to Republican voters. "Yes, the UN is now our friend!" Spread the word next Sunday, we now have an "In"!

    Might raise the hackles of Israel a bit, however, if Christian America makes room in it's bed for the UN. Could get ugly.

    September 27, 2010 at 3:10 pm |
    • peace2all


      I can't speak for @Bob, who raised the issue of the 84 %, but I did say that, I am sure that a lot of 'believer's' give-serve and are not necessarily out to 'convert.'

      I find it interesting from your post above...I.e... concerning the 84%, etc... vs... your post about the 'conservative/fundamentalist/republicans comment above...

      Maybe its just me buddy, but..... I find the irony a bit funny.... 🙂


      September 27, 2010 at 4:44 pm |
    • NL

      Well, what can I say, a significant portion of the quoted 84% are neither conservative nor fundamentalist, contrary to what conservatives and fundamentalists like to tell everyone. Funny how they usually discount small 'c' christian groups from the 'dead' denominations and the 'cult RCC' as not being really Christian except when adding their numbers to the total pew survey making for a really big percentage of Americans who are Christian. Now, that sends a beep to my irony detector.

      September 27, 2010 at 6:16 pm |
    • peace2all


      Very nice... 🙂


      September 28, 2010 at 1:21 am |
  6. peace2all

    Certainly a 'very' double-edged sword. On the one hand, I am extremely grateful that somebody is doing something to save lives, and make a difference in impoverished countries.

    My problem with it has always been.... and as Joyce(lady in article) suggests that (paraphrasing)..." The Church was always condemning us. Like it was 'punishment from God'.

    There are other things in this article that disturb me, and again while I am grateful that funding and aid is going, allegedly to these people, my concern is that it, and I have asserted this before in other postings..... Is that there is always a price... it's going to some kind of 'spiritual conversion' process that goes along with the wonderful aid and help.

    Again, very much a 'double-edged sword.'


    September 27, 2010 at 2:17 pm |
    • Bob

      My question is why are the religious groups bothering to help these people? Isn't it God's will that they're starving, poor and have no education and no quality of life. Why are they trying to divert his holy and righteous plan?

      September 27, 2010 at 2:18 pm |
    • peace2all


      Every time I have asked that same question to the 'believer'/fundies'.... I pretty much get a couple of different responses to that question:

      A)......"We as Christians are actually commanded by God/Jesus/Bible, etc...etc... to go out and heal the sick, feed the starving, provide education, etc.."

      B)......." We are fulfilling God's Holy and righteous plan.... we will do our best, but leave the 'judgement' of these sinners up to God... If they make it, then God has so divined... If they don't ... then that is God's will."

      Bob, I think you and I both know that the answer to your question is to 'also'... create more 'converts' to their religion.

      Not to say that there aren't some extremely sincere 'believer's' out to help....Maybe there are some that 'never' even mention religion.

      But, I would truly like to see more 'secular' groups and funding step up to help.


      September 27, 2010 at 2:34 pm |
    • Bob

      @peace2all There are secular groups, but you have to remember that we're still the minority here. 🙂

      Can't do what 84% of the american population can do.

      September 27, 2010 at 2:37 pm |
    • peace2all


      Yikes..... You really had to remind me of the 84% of the population of which you speak..!!!! Now THAT is a truly scary thought still.

      Maybe that is why, what is it... approximately 40 % of people believe that JC is *actually* coming back within the next 50 years.

      And the U.S ranks 48th in the world in education, specifically in Math and Science. While we are seeing 'fundamental Christianity on the rise.... trying to assert 'creationism' into Science curriculum. Very, very scary....


      September 27, 2010 at 2:48 pm |
    • Mike

      Matthew 25:31ff.

      Peace and all the rest
      there have been countless missionaries who have lived and served amoung the needed putting there lives on the line to help, not proselytizing but setting the example through the fruit they produce. It upsets me greatly when the people from afar mock the hard work of those in the fields from the comforts of their houses. When they themselves must agree that the world is broken that something has going wrong, that the world is not the way it is suppose to be (just look at the largest section in any book store – self help) and refuse to show the world how aid should be provided if they think the Christians have it so wrong. And some "christians" do have it wrong with a self center motive but you need to separate the followers of Christ vs the American "health/wealth" churchology.

      September 27, 2010 at 3:13 pm |
    • Mike

      Good link to help answer questions about Christian Generosity


      September 27, 2010 at 3:23 pm |
    • NL

      That 84% of which you speak probably contains plenty of believers who also donated to the UN, and maybe even volunteered with them. Not every believer in the US dedicates their entire life and all their spare cash (and even some cash they can't spare) to their little religious organization and doesn't contribute to anything else in society. Some support PETA, or cancer research, or the Girl Scouts, or Little League, or a bunch of other causes too.

      So, there's no need to think that there's a 84% mass of dark matter out there that isn't willing to help better anyones' life beyond supplying their preacher with Mercedes and toys to beguile their catamites. There are some socially responsible believers who volunteer alongside non-believers every day.

      September 27, 2010 at 3:24 pm |
  7. David Johnson

    Just say NO to the baby Jesus!!

    September 27, 2010 at 1:47 pm |
    • Bob

      It's funny you use that terminology. I always thought religion was like a drug. It alters your mind, causes you not to be able to think about things logically and every week you have to go back for your fix. You drop your hard earned cash for a bit of the good stuff.

      September 27, 2010 at 2:15 pm |
  8. David Johnson

    "The United Nations is partnering with faith based organizations and their vast network of donors, development groups, and grass roots organizers to bring aid to developing countries around the world."

    And none of these "faith based organizations" is going to want to proselytize to the developing countries right?

    And if you accept the aid (financial) of these faith based organizations, don't they end up calling the shots?

    I think we need much less god – any god. The more we let these organizations get their tentacles around the people, the more misery they will generate. The more they will dominate.

    Religion is just wrong for the world!

    September 27, 2010 at 1:46 pm |
    • Bob

      @David Johnson A better question is how much of this cash is of their total. I'm reminded of a story in the bible where Jesus lauds a poor man for giving a small amount instead of a rich man who gave a moderate amount. The amount of sacrifice is what's at core. Wouldn't it be interesting to see how much money the vatican has and how much it pulls in yearly vs. what they give out. My guess is that they take in more. Which would make them "for profit". 🙂

      September 27, 2010 at 2:17 pm |
    • ScottK

      Religion is wrong for the universe. If I were an alien who knew of earths existence I wouldnt contact them till they had stopped going to war over whos imaginary diety was the best, no need to infect any more planets with our selfish ignorance.

      September 28, 2010 at 2:29 pm |
About this blog

The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.