In an unexpected move, African church leaders are linking with the World Bank--once believed by churches to be the enemy of the poor--to fight poverty and corruption. The World Bank, which gives nearly $30 billion annually in development assistance to needy nations, is looking for new and more dependable partners in Africa. Church leaders say they need a partner with the resources and influence the World Bank commands. A large delegation of World Bank senior staff met in Nairobi with 150 Christian leaders from 20 African nations for a conference on poverty. The five-day meeting in mid-March, sponsored jointly by the bank and the Council of Anglican Provinces in Africa, focused on combining the World Bank's global perspective on poverty with the church's deep influence among the urban and rural poor.This development marks the first time the World Bank has worked on a regional level with churches. Just two years ago, African church leaders saw the World Bank as representing much that was wrong with the New World Order, including a crippling debt burden and insensitivity to the suffering and aspirations of the poor.But some minds began to change after World Bank President James Wolfensohn spoke to Anglican bishops at the Lambeth Conference in 1998. The World Bank, for its part, now accepts some blame for failed programs that have kept Africa poor, according to a comprehensive World Bank report on Africa released in late May.Callisto Madavo, a Zimbabwean Christian and the World Bank's highest-ranking official for Africa, says that the financial institution can be a compassionate ally."If we consider not just the economic and social aspects, but also the cultural and, yes, even the spiritual aspects of human aspirations, we can ...

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