By: Andrew Arndt
Denver is a city known for its heart, its forward-thinking and for its almost unfailing sunshine. Even in the worst of times -- with record unemployment and frequent foreclosures -- Coloradans maintain a generosity of spirit that inspires me every day as pastor for Denver's Bloom Church. This Saturday, my congregation and five others will come together and demonstrate the local faith community's commitment to stand up on behalf of the world's poorest.
Preparing for this weekend, I spoke to many in my congregation about the challenges facing places like sub-Saharan Africa. However, I asked them to look beyond the darkness and heartbreak that too often define poor communities. Extreme poverty has left millions to suffer at the hands of deadly disease, hunger and war -- but that is only part of the story. With the support of the United States, and much of the developed world, Africa is emerging as a force in the global economy.
Thanks to American efforts such as the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) and the Global Fund, millions of lives have been saved and new, healthy generations of Africans are building strong communities and are establishing the foundations for their nations' futures. In the last few years, more than 4 million HIV positive Africans have received life-saving antiretroviral treatment, up from just 50,000 in 2002; 42 million children are enrolling in school for the first time; malaria cases have been cut in half.
Reflecting the heart and generosity of its people, American policy has always striven to defend the basic right to human dignity. Last month, the president stood in front of the United Nations and declared no family should be forced to live on less than $1.25 a day, without access to clean water, food or protection against deadly diseases. No child should be denied an education. No mother with HIV should have to worry her son or daughter will be born HIV-positive. America continues to stand by its commitment to ensure those who suffer without resources are given every opportunity to build a sustainable pathway out of poverty.
On Saturday, ONE Vote Colorado will sponsor an expert panel and jump-start a conversation in Denver's faith community around ways to encourage Coloradans to join the fight against extreme poverty and preventable disease. The panel entitled, "Advocating Simple Solutions to the HIV/AIDS Epidemic," will feature leaders from Compassion International and the Infectious Diseases Institute. Before the panel begins, congregants will watch The Lazarus Effect. The film illustrates the transformative effect of life-saving antiretroviral treatments, through the stories of HIV positive people in Zambia.
I'm confident those who join us at First Baptist Church this weekend will leave feeling inspired and energized. But more importantly, I hope the Colorado community will continue to fight for the world's poorest long after this event is over. With the elections only a couple weeks away, we can get out on the campaign trail and encourage our candidates to go to Washington fighting for those who need us most. As Christians, as voters, as ONE members, we can ensure African men, women and children have access to the life-saving treatments that have the power to bring the world's poorest communities back to life.