World’s religious leaders address global concerns

Sixth annual interfaith summit convenes in Winnipeg, Canada.

by James E. Read –

Leaders of 47 of the world’s major religious communities, including The Salvation Army, met in Winnipeg, Canada June 21-23 to call the G8 and G20 political leaders (convening in Toronto later that week) to address global needs and injustice with bold ethical conviction.

Commissioner M. Christine MacMillan, Director of the Army’s International Social Justice Commission, was a keynote speaker. Drawing on her extensive experience as a practitioner as well as an advocate for justice for the poor, MacMillan warned against creating more shame in the name of doing good. “When we think of ‘poverty,’ what do we think of?” she asked. “The abstract words of ‘unequal power, unequal distribution’ that policy-makers use need stories in order to make real sense. We hold truth in earthen vessels—in human beings and human communities, not in mere abstractions.”

MacMillan added, “As we look at eradicating poverty, we must go deep. Every part of the story needs to be heard. In speaking to governments, let’s not look to them alone. Multinational corporations also need to embrace the Millennium Development Goals [to cut extreme poverty in half by 2015]. And we, who are people of faith have the perspective of eternity, not just what can be accomplished in the next five years. We have to bring hope.”

The 2010 interfaith religious leaders’ summit was the 6th annual meeting focused on the agenda of the G8. Reflecting changes in global power, the G8 nations (USA, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia and the UK) followed their summit this year with a G20 gathering which included leaders from “emerging” economies such as Brazil, India and China. In similar fashion, the religious leaders this year came not only from all G8 nations but also South Korea, Saudi Arabia, Japan, the South Pacific, Central America and various countries in Africa. The host nation’s delegation was co-led by Commissioner William Francis, territorial commander for Canada & Bermuda, and Susanne Tamas of the Canadian Baha’i Community. For the first time, a 13-person Gen-Y delegation also sat at the table.

Rev. Seon-Won Park of South Korea turned the challenge back on the faith leaders themselves. “The root crisis of all these global crises—poverty, environment, violence—is a moral crisis, a spiritual crisis, a crisis of values. Leaders of spiritual communities therefore bear special responsibility.”

Full text of the interfaith summit communique “A Time for Inspired Leadership and Action” can be found at

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