UK can lead G8 in striking at causes of global poverty, say religious leaders

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Religious leaders from across the G8 countries have called onheads of government to follow the UK in fulfilling existingcommitments to spend 0.7 per cent of national income onaid. 

Over 70 religious leaders, including leaders from the MethodistChurch, The Baptist Union of Great Britain and the United ReformedChurch, emphasised in a letter to the Financial Times that fromApril 5 only 1,000 days remain to achieve the MillenniumDevelopment Goals (MDGs) by the 2015 deadline.

With a focus on tax, trade and transparency, the religiousleaders argue, the UK Presidency of the G8 has the potential toadvance the MDG agenda in ways that will strike at the underlyingcauses of poverty, in particular by ensuring the wealth created bydeveloping countries is not lost through unfair tax practices, alack of transparency or a failure to secure the benefits of tradefor developing countries.

The letter was signed by the Revd Jonathan Edwards, GeneralSecretary of the Baptist Union of Great Britain; the Revd RobertaRominger, General Secretary of the United Reformed Church and theRevd Dr Mark Wakelin, President of the Methodist Conference."Meeting the remaining targets, while challenging, is possible -but only if governments do not waiver from the moral and politicalcommitments made over a decade ago," the letter stresses.

The religious leaders argue for a G8 Convention on taxtransparency, committing signatory countries to the task ofpreventing individuals and companies from hiding wealth so that itis untraceable. Furthermore, they call on the G8 to press forgreater financial transparency from the governments of developingcountries so that citizens can hold their governments to accountfor the money they spend.

"Development is working but challenges remain," the letterpoints out. "The number of people living in extreme poverty hasbeen halved ahead of time and 14,000 fewer children die each daythan in 1990. Yet one in eight people still go to bed hungry everynight and more than 2 million die of malnutrition each year."

The financial crisis may be a reason but is not an excuse forhesitation or deferral, the letter states: "Reaching a purposefulconsensus on these areas won't be easy. But, if the political willand moral leadership is forthcoming, this year's G8 could help tocreate an environment that encourages the conditions for inclusive,equitable and sustainable economic growth - conditions that aredesperately needed if we are to realise the MDGs and even greaterthings beyond."


Full text of letter (check against publication)

To G8 Heads of Government,

Today marks the start of the 1000 day countdown to achieving theMillennium Development Goals (MDGs) by the 2015 deadline. It is anappropriate moment to pause and to reflect on progress to date.

Development is working. But challenges remain. The number ofpeople living in extreme poverty has been halved ahead of time and14,000 fewer children die each day than in 1990. Yet 1 in 8 peoplestill go to bed hungry every night and over 2 million die ofmalnutrition each year.

Even as conversations accelerate as to what ought to replace theMDGs, we should not slacken our efforts towards realising existinggoals. Meeting the remaining targets, while challenging, ispossible - but only if governments do not waiver from the moral andpolitical commitments made over a decade ago.

Thirteen years on from the start of the Millennium the valuesand principles that drive these goals are as imperative as ever.The financial crisis may be a reason but is not an excuse forhesitation or deferral. The MDGs remind us that in addition toproviding for the well being of our own societies, we have acollective responsibility to uphold human dignity and the commongood at the global level. Each individual has a value that cannever be lost and must never be ignored.

With a focus on tax, trade and transparency, the UK Presidencyof the G8 this year has the potential to advance the MDG agenda inways that strike at the underlying causes of poverty, in particularby ensuring the wealth created by developing countries is not lostthrough unfair tax practices, a lack of transparency or a failureto secure the benefits of trade for developing countries.

As religious leaders from across the G8 we recommend that ourHeads of Government take the following actions when they meet inJune. First, fulfil existing commitments to spend 0.7% of nationalincome on aid. Secondly, launch a G8 Convention on Tax Transparencycommitting signatory countries to prevent individuals and companiesfrom hiding wealth so that it's untraceable. Thirdly, press forgreater financial transparency from governments of developingcountries so that the citizens of these countries can hold theirgovernments to account for the money they spend.

Reaching a purposeful consensus on these areas won't be easy.But, if the political will and moral leadership is forthcoming,this year's G8 could help to create an environment that encouragesthe conditions for inclusive, equitable and sustainable economicgrowth - conditions that are desperately needed if we are torealise the MDGs and even greater things beyond.



1. The Most Revd and Rt Hon Justin Welby

Lord Archbishop of Canterbury (UK)


2. The Most Revd Vincent Nichols

Archbishop of Westminster (UK)


3. The Most Revd Philip Tartaglia

Archbishop of Glasgow (UK)


4. Rt Revd Albert O. Bogle 

Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland(UK)


5. The Most Revd David Chillingworth

Bishop of St Andrews, Dunkeld and Dunblane

Primus of the Scottish Episcopal Church (UK)


6. Revd Jonathan Edwards

General Secretary, Baptist Union of Great Britain


7. Mr Paul Parker

Recording Clerk, Religious Society of Friends of GreatBritain


8. Mrs Val Morrison

General Secretary of the United Reformed Church (UK)


9. Rev Dr Michael Jagessar

Moderator of the General Assembly of the United Reformed Church(UK)


10. Rev Dr Mark Wakelin 

President of the Conference of the Methodist Church inBritain


11. Revd Simon Walkling

Moderator, National Synod of Wales of the United ReformedChurch


12. Rev R. Kenneth Lindsay

President of the Methodist Church in Ireland


13. Archbishop Paul Hackman

Trans-Atlantic and Pacific Alliances of Churches (UK)


14. Commissioner Clive Adams

Territorial Commander, Salvation Army, UK and ROI


15. Revd Joel Edwards

Director, Micah Challenge International


16. Rt Revd Mar Theodosius 

Diocesan Epicsopa, Mar Thoma Church (UK)


17. Rev Michael Heaney

General Secretary of the Congregational Federation (UK)


18. Rev Torbjørn Holt

Chairman, Council of Lutheran Churches in the UK


19. Rt Revd Munib Younan 

President, Lutheran World Federation (Jordan)


20. Ravinder Kaur Nijjar

Co-Chair of Religions for Peace European Women of Faith Network(UK)


21. Lord Indarjit Singh,

Network of Sikh Organisations (UK)


22. Mr Julian Bond

Director, Christian-Muslim Forum (UK)


23. Dr Natubhai Shah,

Chair/CEO Jain Network (UK)


24. Bhai Sahib, Bhai Mohinder Singh Ahluwalia 

Chairman, Guru Nanak Nishkam Sewak Jatha (UK)


25. National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha'is of the UnitedKingdom and on behalf of its sister Assemblies of Canada, France,Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia, and the United States


26. Shaykh Ibrahim Mogra,

Christian Muslim Forum Co-Chair and Assistant Secretary Generalof the Muslim Council of Britain


27. Mr Toufik Kacimi,

Christian Muslim Forum President


28. Ayatollah Dr Sayyid Fadhil Al-Milani,

Christian Muslim Forum President, and Imam Al-Khoei IslamicCentre (UK)


29. Dr Manazir Ahsan,

Co-Chair Inter Faith Network, Director General IslamicFoundation (UK)


30. Mr Yousif Al-Khoei,

Director, Al-Khoei Foundation UK


31. Mr Ramesh Pattni,

Co-Chair Hindu Christian Forum, Hindu Forum of Britain


32. Mr Nitin Palan,

BAPS Swaminarayan Hindu Mandir (UK)


33. Mr Malcolm Deboo,

President, Zoroastrian Trust Funds of Europe


34. Dr Muhammad Abdul Bari,

Chairman of the East London Mosque, and former Secretary Generalof the Muslim Council of Britain


35. Rabbi Dr Tony Bayfield

The Movement for Reform Judaism (UK)


36. Rabbi Laura Janner-Klausner, 

Movement Rabbi for the Movement for Reform Judaism (UK)


37. Rabbi Natan Levy, 

Interfaith and Social Action consultant, Board of Deputies ofBritish Jews


38. Rabbi Danny Rich

Chief Executive, Liberal Judaism (UK)


39. Rabbi Jonathan Wittenberg

Senior Rabbi of the Masorti Movement (UK)


40. Rabbi Avrohom Pinter

Charedi Rabbi (UK)


41. Rt Revd Paul Hendricks 

Auxiliary Bishop, Archdiocese of Southwark and Co-Chair,Christian Muslim Forum (UK)


42. Anjum Anwar

Dialogue Development Officer, exChange Project, BlackburnCathedral; Chair, Woman's Voice; Trustee, Christian Muslim Forum(UK)


43. His Eminence Metropolitan Emmanuel of France

Ecumenical Patriarchate, President of the Conference of EuropeanChurches (Fra)


44. The Most Revd. Dr. Katharine Jefferts Schori

Presiding Bishop and Primate, Episcopal Church (USA)


45. Rabbi Richard A. Marker

Former Chair, Elijah Board of World Religious Leaders (USA)


46. Mr Dave Courchene

Elder and Spiritual Leader, Anishnabe Nation, Eagle Clan(Canada)


47. Mrs Pascale Fremond

President, Religions for Peace Canada


48. Victor C. Goldbloom

Companion of the Order of Canada, Past Chair, NationalExecutive, Canadian Jewish Congress


49. The Most Revd Fred Hiltz

Archbishop of the Anglican Church of Canada


50. Mr Mark Huyser-Wierenga

Chair of the Board, Citizens for Public Justice (Canada)


51. Rt Revd Susan C. Johnson

National Bishop, Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada


52. Mobeenuddin H. Khaja, O.Ont.

President, Association of Progressive Muslims of Canada


53. The Right Revd Gary Paterson

Moderator, the United Church of Canada


54. Pandit Roopnauth Sharma

President Hindu Federation and Spiritual Leader Shri Ram Mandir,Mississauga (Canada)


55. Mr. Prem Singh Vinning

President, World Sikh Organization of Canada


56. The Rev. Dr. James Christie

Director, Ridd Institute for Religion and Global Policy,University of Winnipeg, Canada


57. The Rev. Dr. Karen Hamilton

General Secretary, The Canadian Council of Churches


58. Major Jim Champ

President, The Canadian Council of Churches


59. Dr. h.c. Nikolaus Schneider

Chair of the Council of the Evangelical Church in Germany


60. Bishop Martin Schindehütte

Head of the Department for Ecumenical Relations and MinistriesAbroad, Evangelical Church in Germany


61. Rev. Regina Claas

General Secretary, Union of Evangelical Free Churches inGermany


62. Revd Martin Affolderbach

General Secretary, G8 Religious Leaders' Summit Germany


63. Prof. Dr. Johannes Lähnemann

Vice Secretary of the Round Tables of Religions in Germany


64. Rabbi Dr. Henry G. Brandt

General Rabbi Conference of the Central Council of Jews inGermany


65. Mr Bekir Alboga

Deputy General Secretary of the Turkish Islamic Union of thePublic Institution for Religion (Germany)


66. Dr. Timmo Guezelmansur

Head of the Center for Christian Muslim Dialogue of the CatholicBishop's Conference in Germany


67. Hilary Keachie, 

Protestant Youth Federation Germany


68. Prof. Dr. Assaad Elias Kattan,

Orthodox Churches in Germany


69. Rt Revd Prof. Dr. Martin Hein

Protestant Church of Kurhessen-Waldeck (Germany)


70. Mr Michael Gerhard

Council of the Buddhist Union in Germany


71. Most Rev. Masanori Yoshimura

President, Japanese Association of Religious Organizations

Patriarch, Shinto Shinshu-kyo (Japan)


72. Most Ven. Yukei Matsunaga

Honorary President, G8 Religious Leaders Summit 2008

Patriarch, Shingon Esoteric Buddhism (Japan)


73. Very Ven. Koho Murayama

President, International Religious Fellowship 

Lord Chancellor, Soto Zen Buddhism (Japan)


74. Most Revd. Mitsuo Miyake

President, International Association for Religious Freedom

Senior Chief Minister, Shinto Konko Church of Izuo (Japan)


75. Most Ven. Jisho Omori

Patriarch, Benten-shu Buddhism

Chief Abbot, Myoohji Temple (Japan)


76. Most Ven. Nisshin Matsushita

Patriarch, Honmon Hokke-shu Lotus Buddhism

Chief Abbot, Myorenji Temple (Japan)


77. Rev. Takeshi Nishida

President, Itto-en Religious Community

Adviser, Religion for Peace (Japan)


78. Most Revd. Tsunetada Mayumi

Chief Priest, Sumiyoshi Grand Shrine (Japan)


79. Yoshinobu Miyake

General Secretary, G8 Religious Leaders' Summit Japan


80. Maulana Mohammed Shahid Raza, Muslim College.