Ban Ki-Moon, the secretary general of the United Nations and one of the world's most influential leaders, did the unimaginable a few weeks ago: He met with a diverse group of evangelicals near Washington, D.C., and asked for help from the church.

Speaking on behalf of 192 nations that committed themselves to cutting global poverty in half by 2015, Ban told evangelicals, "We cannot do it alone. We need good allies such as you. We need … the faith community to help be a voice to the voiceless people. Your engagement can push governments to push through on their commitments. Do not underestimate your power. With faith and the will, we can make a difference."

Tripping Over Micah

It's too bad Ban's predecessor didn't make the same speech nearly eight years ago. During a pre-9/11 burst of optimism in 2000, the United Nations and other global leaders issued the Millennium Declaration. That statement commits the world's top leaders to reduce poverty by setting eight enormously ambitious goals, subdivided into 18 specific global targets.

These U.N.-endorsed Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) are as follows: to eradicate extreme poverty and hunger, to achieve universal primary education, to promote gender equality and empower women, to reduce child mortality, to improve maternal health, to combat HIV/AIDS and other diseases, to ensure environmental sustainability, and to develop a global partnership for development.

The world's leaders gave themselves 15 years to achieve these objectives. But it's sobering to look at the report card at the halfway mark in 2007. New cases of infectious disease are increasing. The extreme poor still number more than 1 billion people. Infant mortality rates are persistently high.

The most notable progress ...

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