Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
June 28, 2010
Religious summit urges G8 leaders to 'be inspired'
Global leaders told to implement Millennium Development Goals
CANADIAN CATHOLIC NEWS
WINNIPEG - Nearly 80 senior religious leaders from every region of the world have called on heads of secular governments to show "inspired leadership" in confronting the "most pressing practical, ethical and strategic issues of our time."
After many words were spoken and considered, the interfaith assembly emerged with a four-page message to the most powerful people in the world.
Winnipeg area MP Stephen Fletcher received the statement, A Time for Inspired Leadership, on behalf of Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, who is expected to deliver the document to leaders of the G8 and G20 nations meeting in Ontario.
The document zeroes in on three of the eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).
"In our diverse faith traditions we have rich histories and powerful dreams for ending poverty, caring for the earth and being peace-builders," say the religious leaders.
Plenary speaker John McArthur, executive director of Millennium Promise, observed that the MDGs "have really become the world's goals," and that they "form a "remarkable fulcrum for solidarity."
Certainly, as host James Christie of the University of Winnipeg put it, they provide representatives of all the world's major religions with "a common language to speak with political leaders," a "Rosetta Stone of sorts."
McArthur acknowledged that "governments have fallen about $20 billion short" in meeting their commitments to achieve the goals by 2015. But, he insists he's "not depressed by that because I see the communities around the world taking leadership."
He points to "practical pledges" of countless people "taking ownership" by holding themselves accountable to "accessible and actionable goals."
This development is fundamental to the success of the MDGs, he says. "By 2015 it will be even more weighted toward civil society and away from governments than it is now."
YOUTH MOST AFFECTED
Young people are at the forefront of these changes.
"The statement lacks urgency," said Shannon Kaur, 20, one of several youth messengers invited to provide their perspective to religious leaders from around the world. "As youth, we realize that we will suffer from consequences of actions now within 30 to 40 years."
Kaur and her colleagues were welcomed. "This is not just a table for grey hair and no hair people," said Imam Abdul Hai Patel of the Islamic Council of Imams in Toronto.
While last minute changes to the document did not satisfy all their concerns, 13 youth delegates were pleased to be signing on to the accord.
WILL THEY LISTEN?
Many were cynical that statement would largely be lost on the politicians, but Christie remained optimistic.
"It's likely that this sort of impetus helps to at least keep the MDGs on the G8 and G20 agendas," he said. "It's good for the general public to know that religious leaders are concerned about these things and are taking action. And it's certainly good for the people who are here."
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