CBS Special Looks at Religion's Impact on Poverty

April 16, 2009

April 9, 2009 | NEW YORK (UMNS)

United Methodists know that poverty and disease go hand-in-hand.


That's why an effort to provide inexpensive bed nets as protection against malaria quickly captured the imagination of church members across the connection.


United Methodist Bishop Thomas Bickerton, the denominational spokesperson for the Nothing But Nets campaign, is among those featured on an interfaith television special, "Poverty: A Time for Sharing," which will be broadcast April 26 on the CBS network. Check with local stations for the exact time.

In Africa, a poor child dies of malaria every thirty seconds. To date, Nothing But Nets, which was started in 2006 by the U.N. Foundation and Sports Columnist Rick Reilly, has raised more than $25 million and distributed over 2.5 million nets to children and families in Africa, at a cost of $10 per net. Religious partners in the campaign include The United Methodist Church, Lutheran World Relief and the Union for Reform Judaism.

As Bickerton has pointed out, "The reality is that we can save a child's life for such a small amount of money, and that message has really touched people's hearts and compelled them to get engaged."


A $10 investment in a bed net means a family of four can be protected for up to five years. Elizabeth McKee Gore, a United Methodist and executive director of Nothing But Nets who also is featured on the program, recently helped distribute nets to refugees in Uganda. "I saw firsthand how these lifesaving bed nets help provide hope to parents who are struggling to keep their children safe," she said.


Bickerton, who leads the Pittsburgh Area, supports church involvement with secular partners as a way to address global health issues. He has noted that often these partners "are looking for the church to be the glue that will give purpose and meaning to this important endeavor to bring life to a dying world."

The 2008 United Methodist General Conference, the denomination's top legislative body, approved a Global Health Initiative to combat the diseases of poverty: HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis.


Other highlights of the CBS special include the work of the American Jewish World Service with 400 non-governmental grassroots groups in 36 countries; the global focus of the Mennonite Church on resolving conflicts without violence and service to the poor; assistance to the poorest of the poor by the U.S.-based Islamic Relief; and the efforts by Catholic Relief Services to respond to disasters, foster development and care for the poor and dying.


"Poverty: A Time for Sharing" is produced with the cooperation of the National Council of Churches, The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, The Islamic Society of North American, The Union for Reform Judaism and the New York Board of Rabbis. John P. Blessington is the executive producer and Ted Holmes is the producer.

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