Ted Turner joins Christian groups to fight malaria
By Louis Charbonneau
UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - Media mogul Ted Turner, who once called Christianity a "religion for losers," announced on Tuesday he was joining forces with two Christian organizations to combat malaria in Africa.
Together with the United Methodist Church and Lutheran World Relief, Turner's United Nations Foundation will try to raise $200 million to fight the disease.
"Together, we are announcing a new initiative to contribute to the internationally agreed goal of eliminating malaria death," Turner said in remarks prepared for delivery at a meeting of the U.N. General Assembly.
"Stopping malaria will go a long way toward giving people all countries new hope and confidence that we can succeed in the fight against poverty."
Turner, 69, was attending a debate on the slow progress being made toward meeting U.N. Millennium Development Goals aimed at halving poverty by 2015.
Sub-Saharan Africa is the region worst hit by malaria. Most of the world's malaria deaths of more than one million occur there every year.
Economists say combating Africa's epidemics -- HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria -- is vital to improving the continent's economic growth.
Turner said his alliance with the two churches would enable the initiative to reach out to their combined 25 million members to raise a targeted $200 million.
The money would be used to strengthen individual and church health systems in African countries.
Turner was asked why he had decided to team up with the churches after once dismissing Christianity as "a religion for losers" and suggesting observers of Ash Wednesday were "Jesus freaks."
"I don't know," he said. "As I get older ... I get, you know, more tolerant."
Turner is chairman of the United Nations Foundation, created in 1998 when the CNN founder pledged $1 billion to the United Nations.
(Additional reporting by Patrick Worsnip)