United Methodists have decided to wipe out malaria because "brothers and sisters don't sit back and let each other die," said William H. Gates Sr., co-chair of the Bill &; Melinda Gates Foundation.
"I am here today to thank you," he told the 2008 United Methodist General Conference on May 1, during its worldwide legislative meeting.
"We are proud to be your partner in this campaign to end the world's worst killer of children. We believe the campaign cannot succeed without you."
The United Methodist Church is a founding partner of the Nothing But Nets anti-malaria campaign, which fights the disease by purchasing and distributing insecticide-treated sleeping nets in Africa. More than $20 million has been raised since the campaign began in 2006.
The church also recently received a $5 million grant from the U.N. Foundation, with support from the Bill &; Melinda Gates Foundation, to fight malaria and other diseases of poverty. The money will support a fund-raising and educational campaign to help prevent deaths related to malaria, HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis.
Gates addressed the General Conference during its 10-day meeting to decide church policy for the next four years. Working to achieve global health is one of the denomination's four newly named areas of focus.
"Almost 300 years ago, your founder, John Wesley, explained the moral implications of what is now fashionably called globalization," he said. "Wesley's statement 'I look on all the world as my parish,' describes our mutual responsibility."
Gates, founding partner of a Seattle law firm and the father of Microsoft founder Bill Gates, asked the nearly 1,000 delegates to make a personal commitment to help The United Methodist Church end malaria. He said the fight is going to take billions of dollars, more health clinics in more countries and politicians who make the goal a priority.
"But more than anything, the fight against malaria is going to take a firm commitment to John Wesley's idea," he said. "You are 12 million people armed with the conviction that all the world is your parish. That makes you the most powerful weapon there is against malaria."
Bishop Eben Nhiwatiwa, of the church's Zimbabwe Area, offered thanks to Gates and the church for all the bed nets that have and will be distributed in Africa. Nhiwatiwa said he had participated in distributing nets in a small village in Zimbabwe.
"That village is very far away, but your helping hand has reached there," he said. Nets that save "tender children are the future of Africa and all of us.
*Gilbert is a United Methodist News Service writer based in Nashville, Tenn.
News media contact: Kathy Gilbert, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Phone calls can be made to the General Conference Newsroom in Fort Worth, Texas, at (817) 698-4405 until May 3. Afterward, call United Methodist News Service in Nashville, Tenn., at (615) 742-5470.