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PostReligion and World Bank: Ending Extreme Poverty (Vincent Littrell, USA, 04/12/15 3:21 pm)
In February 2015, over 30 religious leaders and representatives of faith-based organizations met with World Bank officials in support of a World Bank initiative to end extreme poverty world-wide in the next 15 years. The 30 religious leaders and faith-based organization representatives issued a joint statement titled "Ending Extreme Poverty: A Moral and Spiritual Imperative."
Highlights of the statement include acknowledgement that extreme poverty in the world has been cut in half in the past two decades, and that evidence from the World Bank and others point to the existence of a collective global capability to actually end world poverty in 15 years. It points to the reality that the technology exists for such an endeavor in an "age of unprecedented wealth and scientific advancement." The statement goes on to say that the faith community embraces the moral imperative of seeing to the welfare of and combating injustice towards the "poorest in our midst," and that what binds the religions together in this regard are their sacred texts that call them to uplift the poor. The bold statement is made:
"Ending extreme poverty will require a comprehensive approach that tackles its underlying causes--including preventable illness, a lack of access to quality education, joblessness, corruption, violent conflicts, and discrimination against women, ethnic minorities and other groups. It will also necessitate a change in the habits that cause poverty--greed and waste, numbness to the pain of others, and exploitation of people and the natural world. It calls for a holistic and sustainable approach that transforms cultures and institutions, and hearts as well as minds."
The statement concludes with the following:
"Our approach to this staggering need must be holistic, rooted in the spiritual visions of our respective faiths, and built on a shared recognition of the intrinsic dignity and value of every life on Earth. Realizing this shared goal will require a revolution in social and political will, as well as new innovations and greater collaboration across sectors. We call on international organizations, governments, corporations, civil society, and religious communities, to play their essential parts and join with us in this critical cause."
This joint World Bank and interfaith effort to end global extreme poverty faces a very tough if not stupendous challenge. But the reality of the halving of world poverty in the last two decades points to the possibility of success. World Bank President Jim Yong Kim stated, "Faith leaders and the World Bank Group share a common goal--to realize a world free of extreme poverty in just 15 years. The moral imperative can help drive the movement to end poverty by 2030 by inspiring large communities to act now and to advocate for governments to do the same. These commitments from religious leaders come at just the right time--their actions can help hundreds of millions of people lift themselves out of poverty."
President Kim stated in his invitation to religious representatives to attend the meeting that "the most sensible and smart plan" for ending extreme poverty "will likely fall short unless we can also capture the moral imagination of people." (http://news.bahai.org/story/1049 )
Baha'i representative to the World Bank/interfaith meeting Bani Dugal made the comment:
"In general, faith has the capacity to tap the deepest reservoirs of human motivation and therefore release the collective will and raise the consciousness of the people, in a way that brings the moral dimension of poverty to the fore. In the Baha'i view, individuals have a responsibility to assist the poor, but societies and their institutions are responsible for creating the conditions where poverty can be eradicated. Efforts to fulfill that responsibility and to promote the well-being of all have been blocked largely by the pursuit of self-interest and overall disunity that sadly seems to characterize many of our individual and institutional pursuits today. What is needed is a new vision of society where cooperation is the dominant mode of social and economic interaction, and where recognition of our underlying oneness and interdependence is firmly upheld." (http://news.bahai.org/story/1049 )
Signers of the joint statement of the moral imperative to end poverty also included representatives of the Buddhist, Christian, Hindu, Jewish, Muslim, and Sikh faiths.
JE comments: Charity towards the poor is one issue that transcends theological differences. Secular progressives can get on board, too. Might this project be ideally suited to interfaith activism?
On the other hand, is ending extreme poverty nothing more than a Utopian dream?