Interfaith campaign called Love My neighbour
While Canada’s COVID-19 vaccination rate is currently at 86 per cent, the rate of those in poorer countries who have received at least one dose is only 17.8 per cent, according to OurWorldInData.org.
Christine MacMillan, a senior advisor with the World Evangelical Alliance, says this low rate is primarily about the socioeconomic conditions that prevent people from getting vaccinated, even more than the physical availability of the vaccines.
She offers the example of wage labourers considering if they can take time off to get vaccinated. “It’s their daily work for daily food. They couldn’t afford to take a few hours off work.”
Enter activist Sara Hildebrand, who started a Canadian interfaith campaign to support vaccine access in low-income countries. The Love My Neighbour campaign highlights the need for vaccine equity, encourages churches and other community groups in awareness-raising efforts and provides a donation portal directly to UNICEF’s GiveAVax program.
Hildebrand, known for founding the youth movement Millennium Kids in support of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, says the new vaccine campaign has employed everything from special Sunday collections to inspiring sermons to youth arts and crafts projects and even a Bible Quiz-a-thon to raise funds and awareness. She encourages donors to “pay forward” the vaccine doses that Canadians receive for free through public healthcare, asking for symbolic contributions of $25.
At time of writing, Love My Neighbour has raised over $750,000.
The campaign formally includes several familiar Christian groups including The Alliance Canada (formerly Christian & Missionary Alliance), Salvation Army Canada and The Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada/Emergency Relief and Development Overseas.
David Adcock, head of ERDO, serves on Love My Neighbour’s advocacy committee, which recently made a submission to a federal parliamentary committee urging the Canadian government to increase vaccine access and support the World Trade Organization waiver on patents for COVID-19 vaccines.
Other participants in the campaign include musician Steve Bell’s record label Signpost Music and the World Evangelical Alliance, with MacMillan contributing as an executive advisor connecting Love My Neighbour to the United Nations and UNICEF. She says her membership on both the World Evangelical Alliance’s UN Mission and the UN’s Multi-Faith Advisory Council are key assets to the campaign.
MacMillan, who previously led The Salvation Army in Canada and Bermuda (and did a stint in Papua New Guinea), says evangelical involvement in the movement for global vaccine equity is inspired by the way “Jesus acknowledged, while He was here on earth, the vulnerable, those who were considered in some ways castaways by society.”
Hildebrand, a lifelong member of The Alliance Canada, similarly looked to the gospel accounts for motivation to start Love My Neighbour, especially the story of the five loaves and two fish.
“What great plans might the Creator have to bless where all we see is vaccine shortage?” she asks on the “Our Story” section on the organization’s site. “To love our neighbours as ourselves, shouldn’t we pass on [“pay forward”] every second vaccine available to us?”
Matthew Neugebauer is a summer intern at Faith Today. Visit Love My Neighbour’s donation portal and more action items.