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Bahá’ís join G20 faith message - “leaders must not forget promises to the poor”

Filed Under Comment, Human Rights, Social action, environment, inter-faith |

The national governing council of the UK Bahá’í community has joined with the country’s religious leaders in urging the G20 leaders not to forget their commitments to the world’s poorest people in the current economic crisis.

In a letter issued in advance of the G20 meeting in London, political leaders are called upon to consider the moral issues at the root of the current financial crisis, and to pay special attention to the needs of poor, marginalised and vulnerable people: “to forget their needs would be to compound regrettable past failures with needless future injustices”.

Attention is drawn to promises made by the international community in “easier times” which now risk being “postponed by the pressing concern to rectify market failures”.

“Even in these difficult times we strongly urge the leaders of the G20 to hold fast to the commitments they have made to the world’s poorest people,” says the statement.

The 31 signatories to the letter include the National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’ís of the United Kingdom along with the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Archbishop of Westminster and the Chief Rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the Commonwealth.

Recognising that people “who have lost jobs, savings, or homes, are in need of immediate help” the statement stresses the need for the G20 to fulfill its promises to the poor, citing World Bank figures that “53 million more people could fall into absolute poverty “ as a result of the world financial crisis, the faith leaders’ hope was that “poorer countries would be allowed to trade their way to prosperity”.

The text of the letter reads:

“We write as religious leaders who share a belief in God and the dignity of human life. We wish to acknowledge with realism and humility the severity of the current economic crisis and the sheer complexity of the global and local challenge faced by political leaders. We pray for the leaders of the G20 as they prepare to meet in London this week. They, and we, have a crucial role to play in recovering that lost sense of balance between the requirements of market mechanisms that help deliver increased prosperity, and the moral requirement to safeguard human dignity, regardless of economic or social category.

Many people are suffering as a result of the economic crisis. The World Bank estimates that 53 million more people could fall into absolute poverty as a result of the crisis. The likelihood is that more will face significant hardship before it comes to an end, and those who are already poor suffer the most. Along with the leaders of the G20 we all have a duty to look at the faces of the poor around the world and to act with justice, to think with compassion, and to look with hope to a sustainable vision of the future.

We wish therefore to draw attention to some of the promises made by the international community in recent times - with our wholehearted support - that risk being postponed by the pressing concern to rectify market failures. We need to be properly conscious that all communities include, and must pay special attention to the needs of, poor, marginalised and vulnerable people. To forget their needs would be to compound regrettable past failures with needless future injustices.

Some aspects of this crisis will require technical economic solutions. However those solutions alone will not be enough to address all the questions that we face. At the roots of this crisis lie important moral issues.

We are concerned for people and the work they do. We believe there is a need to consider the aspirations of both rich and poor; to examine our own expectations and how realistic they are; and to root future global patterns of work in our understanding of human dignity. We recognize that people who have lost jobs, savings, or homes, or who now live with the worry of what the future might bring are in need of immediate help. Their hope is for sustainable employment and not continuing job insecurity.

The international community has made important commitments to the developing world. The Millennium Development Goals are of fundamental importance and cannot now be forgotten. Even in these difficult times we strongly urge the leaders of the G20 to hold fast to the commitments they have made to the world’s poorest people. We still need to find ways to enable poorer countries to trade their way to prosperity. We hold that promises made to the poor are especially sacred.

When we spend now, we have to pay later. This also applies when we use up the resources of the natural environment. Morally binding commitments to cut carbon emissions and so to slow the devastating effects of man-made climate change have been made in recent years. They should not be forgotten or postponed. We call on the whole of the international community to hold firm to commitments already made. Most recognise that even more radical commitments will need to be agreed in the near future.

The leaders of the G20 countries are concerned to recover stability in the global economy. We support those efforts. And we pray that as they deliberate they will be mindful of the need to protect the vulnerable from unintended injustice and to respect the commitments they made in easier times.

Dr Musharraf Hussain Azhari Chief Imam and Executive Officer, Karimia Institute Chair, Christian-Muslim Forum

Dr Mohammed Abdul Bari Secretary General of the Muslim Council of Britain

Rabbi Dr Tony Bayfield Head, Movement for Reform Judaism

Dr Girdhari Bhan President, Vishwa Hindu Parishad (UK)

Mr Anil Bhanot General Secretary, Hindu Council UK

Mr Steve Clifford General Director, Evangelical Alliance

Mr Khurshid Drabu Project Director, Mosques and Imams National Advisory Board, UK (MINAB)

Mr Henry Grunwald President, Board of Deputies of British Jews

Bishop Nathan Hovhannisian Primate, Armenian Orthodox Church of Great Britain

Mr Sanjay Jagatia Secretary-General, National Council of Hindu Temples UK (NCHT)

The Most Revd Dr Idris Jones Bishop of Glasgow and Galloway Primus, Scottish Episcopal Church

Mr Ramesh Kallidai General Secretary, Hindu Forum of Britain

Sayyed Nadeem Kazmi Founder & Director, The Britslam Partnership.

Commissioner Elizabeth Matear Moderator of the Free Churches Group

Ayatollah Sayyid Fazel Milani Al-Khoei Foundation

Shaykh Ibrahim Mogra Chairman, Religions for Peace, UK

The Most Revd Barry Morgan Bishop of Llandaff, Archbishop, The Church in Wales

His Eminence Cormac Cardinal Murphy-O’Connor Archbishop of Westminster, President of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales

National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’ís of the UK

Mrs Ravinder Kaur Nijjar Sikh Community, Scotland

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

Mr Jitu Patel Chairman, Baps Swaminarayan Sanstha

Rabbi Danny Rich Chief Executive, Liberal Judaism

Dr Nawal Prinja and the Rt Revd Tom Butler

Sir Jonathan Sacks Chief Rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the Commonwealth

Venerable Bogoda Seelawimala Nayaka Thera Sangha Nayaka of Great Britain Head of the Sri Lankan Sangha Sabha of Great Britain

Head of the London Buddhist Vihara

The Most Revd & Rt Hon Dr. John Sentamu

The Archbishop of York

Dr Indarjit Singh, CBE Director, Network of Sikh Organisations UK

Dr Natubhai Shah MBBS, PhD Chair, Jain Network

Sir Sigmund Sternberg, KCSG Co-Founder, Three Faiths Forum, Senior Advisor, Community of Religious Leaders, World Economic Forum, Patron, International Council of Christians and Jews, Vice President, World Congress of Faiths

The Most Revd and Rt Hon Dr. Rowan Williams The Archbishop of Canterbury

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