Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Religious leaders ask G8 nations to consider the poor

In a letter to leaders participating in the G8 Summit in Italy, July 8-10, the presidents of the Catholic bishops’ conferences of the G8 nations have urged Summit leaders to “take concerted actions to protect poor persons and assist developing countries.” The letter echoes a similar statement by 129 world religious leaders who held their own G8 summit in Italy on June 16-17. Both the letter and the statement are excellent and so we have reproduced them below.

Letter from National Conferences of Catholic Bishops to the Leaders of the G8 Nations

Dear Leaders of the Group of 8 Nations:

At a time of global financial and economic crisis, we write on behalf of the Catholic bishops’ conferences in the G8 nations to urge you to take concerted actions to protect poor persons and assist developing countries at the upcoming G8 Summit in Italy.

As our Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, wrote in a letter to Prime Minster Gordon Brown prior to the G20 meeting which the Prime Minister hosted:

The current crisis has raised the spectre of the cancellation or drastic reduction of external assistance programmes, especially for Africa and for less developed countries elsewhere. Development aid, including the commercial and financial conditions favourable to less developed countries and the cancellation of the external debt of the poorest and most indebted countries, has not been the cause of the crisis and, out of fundamental justice, must not be its victim.

Our moral tradition commits the Church to protecting human life and dignity, especially of the poorest, most vulnerable members of the human family. In the faces of poor persons the Catholic Church sees the face of Christ whom we serve in countries throughout the world.

Ironically poor people have contributed the least to the economic crisis facing our world, but their lives and livelihoods are likely to suffer the greatest devastation because they struggle at the margins in crushing poverty. In light of this fact, the G8 nations should meet their responsibility to promote dialogue with other powerful economies to help prevent further economic crises. In addition, they should meet their commitments to increase Official Development Assistance in order to reduce global poverty and to achieve the Millennium Development Goals, especially in African countries. This requires deepening partnerships with developing countries so that their peoples can be active agents in their own development, participating in political, governmental, economic and social reforms that serve the common good of all. In a particular way it is important to strengthen peacekeeping so that armed conflicts do not continue to rob countries of the resources needed for development.

In a similar way, poor countries and peoples who have contributed the least to the human factors driving global climate change are most at risk of its harmful consequences. As Catholic pastors and teachers, we have a special concern for how climate change impacts the poor. Concrete commitments should be agreed upon and mechanisms should be created to mitigate additional global climate change and to help poor persons and developing nations adapt to its effects as well as to adopt appropriate technologies for sustainable development. Protecting the poor and the planet are not competing causes; they are moral priorities for all people living in this world.

The G8 Summit takes place in the shadow of a global economic crisis, but its actions can help bring a light of hope to our world. By asking first how a given policy will affect the poor and the vulnerable, you can help assure that the common good of all is served. As a human family we are only as healthy as our weakest members.

We pray that your meeting will be blessed by a spirit of collaboration that enables you to take steps to reduce poverty and address climate change in a time of crisis.

Sincerely yours,

Most Rev. Vernon James Weisgerber
Archbishop of Winnipeg
President, Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops

His Eminence André Vingt-Trois
Archbishop of Paris
President of the Bishops’ Conference of France (Conférence des évêques de France)

Most Rev. Robert Zollitsch
Archbishop of Freiburg
President of the German Bishops’ Conference (Deutsche Bischofskonferenz)

His Eminence Angelo Cardinal Bagnasco
Archbishop of Genoa
President, Bishops’ Conference of Italy

Most Rev. Peter Takeo Okada
Archbishop of Tōkyō
President, Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Japan

Most Rev. Joseph Werth
Bishop of the Diocese of the Transfiguration of the Lord in Novosibirsk
President, Conference of Catholic Bishops of the Russian Federation

His Eminence Keith Patrick Cardinal O’Brien
Archbishop of Edinburgh and St Andrews
President, Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Scotland

Most Rev. Vincent Nichols
Archbishop of Westminster
President, Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales

His Eminence Francis Cardinal George
Archbishop of Chicago
President, United States Conference of Catholic Bishops

Appeal by the Fourth Summit of Religious Leaders on the occasion of the G8

We, leaders of the worlds religions and spiritual traditions gathered in Rome on the eve of the G8 Summit of 2009, are united in our common commitment to justice and the protection of human life, the building of the common good and the belief on the divinely established and inviolable dignity of all people from conception to death.

We speak from the heart of the great majority of the human family who are members of religions or spiritual traditions. In a time of economic crisis when many securities are crumbling, we feel even more acutely the need for spiritual orientation. We are convinced that spiritual life and the freedom to practice it is the true guarantee for authentic freedom. A spiritual approach can touch the hunger for meaning in our contemporary society. Materialism often expresses itself in idolatrous forms and has proved powerless in the present crisis.

We carry forward important work begun in multireligious meetings held just prior to the G8 Summits, (in Moscow 2006, Cologne 2007, Sapporo 2008, Rome 2009) and building on earlier meetings in London. We have been convened by the Italian Bishops Conference, with the support of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs for whose assistance we are grateful.

We greet the leaders of the nations gathered in L’Aquila and we pray for them as they exercise their heavy responsibilities to confront the challenges facing the human family today.

We commenced our meeting in L’Aquila in solidarity with those who are suffering there from the devastating earthquake and in solidarity also with all those around the world who are bearing the burdens of suffering.

We are convinced that a new moral paradigm is essential to address today’s challenges. Through the notion of shared security we can draw attention to the comprehensive character of our moral and religious concerns. We are using the term “security” in a new way. We add the word “shared” to draw attention to a fundamental moral conviction: the wellbeing of each is related to the wellbeing of others and to our environment. Shared security focuses on the fundamental inter relatedness of all persons and the environment. It includes a comprehensive respect for the interconnectedness and dignity of all life and acknowledges the fundamental fact that we all live in one world. Ultimately we are convinced that to overcome violence justice with compassion and forgiveness are necessary and possible.

Shared security is concerned with the full continuum of human relations from relationship amongst individuals to the ways that people are organized in nations and states. It follows that the security of one actor in international relations must not be detrimental to another. Those international leaders who are responsible for global decision-making must act transparently and be open to the contribution of all involved.

The current financial and economic crisis weighs most heavily upon the poor. Addressing these related crises call for a new financial pact that addresses squarely (1) the causes of the financial crisis, (2) acknowledges the need basic moral principles, (3) includes all stakeholders and (4) places at a premium the urgent need for sustained financing for development. We are convinced that, in a time of economic crisis and spiritual disorientation for the men and women of our time, religions can and must offer a decisive contribution to the search for the common good. As we confront this crisis, there is the need for the spiritual wisdom entrusted to the great world religions so as to steer an ethical path to justice and human flourishing. Concretely, as part of the reform of the finance system, we urge concerted action to close down the unregulated off shore banking system. Regarding development assistance, we urge the inclusion as partners of civil society organizations including especially religious communities and their organizations.

In continuity with previous world religious summits we continue to call for the fulfilment of the Millennium Development Goals. Their completion has been promised for 2015, but progress has now fallen behind. The current crisis has worsened the situation of those whom the MDG’s are designed to assist. We insist that it is an imperative for the lives of millions that the MDG’s be fulfilled on schedule and we commit ourselves to work together with the G8 leaders to that end.

Africa is already hard hit by the world financial crisis and it runs the risk of being seriously damaged in its efforts against poverty with a negative impact on the economic growth of its countries. It is our hope that the international community places Africa at the centre of policies for development, by finding new sources for financing cooperation and favoring the involvement of States and civil societies of African countries in a perspective of rebirth of the whole continent. In this same context we would like to affirm that the time has come to commit ourselves decisively to the healing of the entire continent wounded.

Seventy years from the beginning of the great tragedy for humanity that was World War II and the many subsequent conflicts, causing human suffering, injustice and poverty, we call for nations to resist making war a means of international politics and to make every effort to establish a just peace for all. We believe that the attempt to militarily dominate the sea, space, neutral territories or states creates obstacles on the way to nuclear and conventional disarmament. We also believe that conventional disarmament and efforts to ban military technologies and initiatives that could provoke a new arms race should go hand in hand with efforts to advance nuclear disarmament.

We request the G8 Summit to pursue rigorous implementation of nuclear reduction and nonproliferation policies leading to the goal of total nuclear disarmament. The five acknowledged nuclear-weapon states must act on their commitments to work toward eliminating existing nuclear weapons as rapidly as possible. States with nuclear weapons that have not acknowledged them must acknowledge their possession, make similar commitments to their elimination and enter into the NPT. We press for prompt ratifications and entry into force of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty and commit to take no action leading toward the reintroduction of any form of nuclear weapons testing.

We call attention to the plight of the ever growing number of “illegal” immigrants and the absence of adequate and uniform standards designed to protect them.

We urge that the full rights and dignity of people be respected and cost-sharing introduced where appropriate as states re-evaluate their comprehensive policies for legal residents and immigration. We urge attention to the fact that immigration is growing and that ecological pressure may greatly accelerate it.

We representatives of world religions and spiritual traditions gathered in these days in Rome facing the threats and the challenges of a difficult time of crisis for our societies, reaffirm our commitment to work with all people of good will, for the realization of the common good. In this context we call for the establishment of mechanisms for dialogue between religious communities, political leaders, international organisations and civil society structures.

Our method and our strength, the strength of yesterday, today and tomorrow will always and only be that of the transformation of hearts and shared action through dialogue.

Dialogue is an art that everyone must practise and cultivate within and between religions, culture, politics and especially those who have power in the world. Dialogue requires courage and enables people to see each other more clearly, enabling us to offer life and hope to new generations.

This is our renewed commitment, this is the appeal we address to the world.

We commit ourselves to meet again in Canada in June 2010

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