Leaders Call for Ethical Response to Economic Crisis
In June, at the second Ibero-American Interreligious Summit in
Barcelona, religious leaders from Latin America, Spain and Portugal
exhorted member states “to admit the ethical origin of the present
[economic] crisis and to support and respect the efforts of the
religious communities in alleviating an increase in poverty as a result
of the crisis.”
Religious leaders of diverse religious faiths are looking at the global
economic crisis and positing that greed plays a significant role in it.
This shared concern brings a new frame to interfaith dialogue since
solidarity towards those in need is a common element rooted in all world
religions. A more ethical, merciful economy is needed, and men and women
of faith, including imams, pastors, priests, rabbis, Buddhist monks and
Catholic nuns, seem increasingly determined to make their voices heard.
Religious leaders at the Ibero-American Interreligious Summit
recommended that political leaders of their respective countries
“protect the dignity of every human being in the construction of the
public policies to address the present financial and economic crisis and
to overcome poverty and inequality.” They also issued a reminder of the
need to remain committed to the U.N. Millennium Development Goals for
2015, which include fighting poverty, “without using the present
situation of crisis as an excuse to defer their achievement.”
This topic has become of increasing importance in interfaith dialogue.
An interreligious conference organized by the conservative European
People’s Party (EPP) last November in Esztergom, Hungary, reflected on
the role of religion and religious institutions in tackling the
In their final document, the 100 delegates argued that “the reasons
behind the economic problems are twofold: the market economy is not
social and ecological enough, and the current institutions do not yet
have the necessary instruments to react adequately to globalization. The
so-called anti-crisis measures that seek to boost economic growth may
deepen inequalities and worsen environmental conditions in the long
While many nations are desperately seeking practical strategies to find
a way out of this economic crisis, religious leaders feel that they can
contribute from a social and religious perspective to a debate taking
place worldwide. From their point of view, morality is at the root of
the global financial crisis, and morality is a domain where they feel
entitled to speak out.
Religious leaders do not intend to offer economic theories, but some of
their proposals reflect existing models of economic development and
sustainable growth. For instance, those gathered at Esztergom, who were
mostly Christian and Jewish, invoked the social market economy model so
dear to German Christian Democrats. The social market economy model is a
system in which industry and trade are run by private companies but
within limits set by national governments to guarantee equal
opportunities and social and environmental responsibility.
In other parts of the world, other economic models have been brought to
the attention of governments and civil society. Muslim scholars at the
Doha International Center for Interfaith Dialogue, which hosts an annual
interreligious meeting in Qatar, argued in a 2009 meeting that Islamic
finance could be a tool, not only to solve the current crisis, but also
to prevent further failures of the global monetary system.
After 1,400 years of practice, Islamic rules of business are usually
conservative in their approach to risk and, with a clear moral code
behind them, could offer a form of security that market-driven
capitalism seems unable to offer anymore. Many non-Muslim thinkers have
praised these mechanisms.
A common interfaith effort may become a powerful tool for cooperation in
support of solutions to the financial crisis. Although some religious
institutions and political parties have also fallen into the greed trap,
world religions share a profound belief that the human being is the main
value at the center of the economy. They should be allowed a voice in
the design of new principles for economic growth.
* Barcelona-based author Maria-Paz Lopez is senior religion writer at
the Spanish daily La Vanguardia and chairs the steering committee of the
International Association of Religion Journalists (IARJ). This article
was written for the Common Ground News Service (CGNews).
Source: CGNews, July 31, 2012, <www.commongroundnews.org>.
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