A World Council of Churches economist has criticised the global economic system for creating "material and spiritual poverty" and called for a people-centred economy in which morality replaces mathematics in tackling problems caused by global capital - writes David Wanless.
Rogate Mshana, the WCC programme executive for Economic Justice, Poverty and Ecology, said the present global economy has disrupted traditional patterns of human behaviour and had created "spiritual and material poverty by devastating precious indigenous customs and ecosystems".
Mshana, a Tanzanian, was speaking at a 3 October 2007 conference in Johannesburg sponsored by the British-based Council for World Mission and attended by delegates from churches in eight southern African countries as well as representatives of South African NGOs.
"A veneer of wellbeing covers terrible psychological and social damage. There is a need to draw alternative economic models from the people, particularly those who are excluded and marginalised," said Mshana.
Mshana said one solution to the globalisation of capital was the introduction of "participatory capitalism, which provides a way to connect people to their economy, their community, to their work place and to each other". A reform he suggested was encouraging employee ownership schemes.
He said churches could lobby for clean production technologies that use renewable energy; promoting fair trade to respect the needs of small-scale farmers in poor countries; and support for economic initiatives that focus on social rather than economic performance.
The Rev. Vuyani Vellem of the Uniting Presbyterian Church in Southern Africa told Ecumenical News International that Mshana's suggestions presented a challenge for churches in the so-called developing world.
"Ordinary people in Africa are not benefitting from the world's rush to acquire the continent's natural resources. Churches need to work so that local communities, not only the multinational corporations benefit from global growth," said Vellem.
[With acknowledgements to ENI. Ecumenical News International  is jointly sponsored by the World Council of Churches, the Lutheran World Federation, the World Alliance of Reformed Churches, and the Conference of European Churches.]