US churches leader backs stockholder action on Darfur

By staff writers
May 4, 2007

When the stockholders of Berkshire Hathaway meet in Omaha, Nebraska, on Saturday 5 May 2007, they will hear from those urging a socially responsible investment policy toward corporations doing business in Sudan. The Rev Dr Bob Edgar, general secretary of the National Council of Churches USA (NCCUSA), will be among those speakers.

"The NCCUSA was very active urging divestment in South Africa during apartheid," says Dr Edgar. "It's time for large investors to do the right thing and stop subsidizing the genocide in Darfur."

Dr Edgar was invited to speak by Judith Porter, a stockholder in Berkshire Hathaway from Ardmore, Pennsylvania. She is author of a resolution to pull Berkshire Hathaway money out of PetroChina, a company developing much of Sudan's oil reserves. Berkshire is the second largest holder of PetroChina shares in the world, according to Porter.

Shareholder advocacy is part of the NCCUSA's action plan "to press corporations to end irresponsible behavior or to live up to standards of excellence," says a policy statement from the ecumenical body.

The 1990 policy statement, "Socially Responsible Investing," prohibits NCC investment in companies that make their profits on alcohol, tobacco or gambling. Also barred is investment in the top 25 Defense Department (DOD) contractors, those that make nuclear, chemical or biological weapons, and those whose DOD contracts are larger than 15% of sales.

The National Council of Churches USA has a four decade-long history of advocating for justice issues through responsible economic action.

"I think when Jesus said we should love our neighbours as ourselves," said Dr Edgar, "he meant we should probably try every means available to stop those neighbours from being killed. This is just one way we can follow those words of Jesus."

The NCCUSA is the ecumenical voice of America's Orthodox, Protestant, Anglican, historic African American and traditional peace churches. These 35 communions have 45 million members in 100,000 congregations in all 50 states.

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