10 January 2005

Methodist Ministers join the Vicar of Dibley to back Make Poverty History

A number of women Methodist Ministers will join other female clergy as the real-life Vicars of Dibley promote Make Poverty History. The group, lead by Dawn French, will march from Trafalgar Square to Downing Street on Thursday 13 January. The event is organised by Christian Aid as part of the year-long Make Poverty History campaign, which aims to press for structural change to aid, debt relief and trade policies while the UK holds the presidency of the G8 and EU.

One of those marching will be the Rev Anne Brown, Chair of the London North-West District. "This event is more than just a march," she says. "The whole Make Poverty History campaign is a unique opportunity to put fair development issues at the heart of the economic strategies of the world's leading economies. Tony Blair and Gordon Brown have already given their support to the campaign, and we hope that this event will make it clear to the whole country just how important this is."

The Rev Alison Tomlin, Chair of the Oxford and Leicester District, adds "this has been an issue for me since before the Drop the Debt campaign. People are dying every day because we are not treating developing nations fairly. The British Government has a golden opportunity to do something about this. We are pleased that Gordon Brown has already mentioned debt relief in relation to the devastating Asian tsunami, and we hope that this profound concern will extend to the rest of the world's poor during the whole of this year."

The march is open to all female clergy, the only requirement being that they wear their dog collars. This will represent the white band that is the sign of Make Poverty History. The group will first fix a white band around Nelson's Column before marching down Whitehall to Downing Street, where a representative group will deliver a white band card to Tony Blair.

The Rev Louise Grosberg from the Nottingham (East) circuit is planning to attend. She says, "I've always had good intentions, to make a public stand against the injustice of world poverty, but for tomorrow rather than today. Then I saw thousands of lives wiped out instantly by the tsunami. It has changed my priorities. I pray that this march may help to mean that tomorrow is not too late for others."

From the London (Enfield) circuit, the Rev Bonni-Belle Pickard says 'when I lived in India, I learned that poverty has more to do with your nationality than how hard you work. The Tsunami is a huge wake-up call that the world's well-being depends on insuring economic justice for all. Why wait for a disaster to declare debt relief? God has given us the power and resources now to put our world- wide economic house in order."

The Rev Debbie Godefroy will travel from the Bristol (West) circuit to take part in the march. She says "As a minister I proclaim life after death. As a Christian I seek life before death. As a woman I long for the children of the world to have life in all its fullness which is my gender's calling to give."

Richard Curtis, producer and writer of the Vicar of Dibley and a co-founder of Comic Relief, said "Geraldine would have been 20 at the time of Live Aid - and so it seemed a very apt idea for an episode of Vicar of Dibley to centre around her trying to mark the anniversary of a day which changed her world. I believe she'd still be totally up in arms about the horrific statistics 20 years on - one child dying every three seconds, unnecessarily, of the results of extreme poverty. Make Poverty History is a real life campaign that is asking the UK public to send a white band message to the government urging them to make changes around debt, trade and aid that keep poor countries poor."

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