Interfaith religious leaders from Latin America and the Caribbean have met with officials from the World Bank, International Monetary Fund and the Inter-American Development Bank to discuss ways of working together to advance the struggle against poverty and inequality and to achieve the Millennium Development Goals in the region.
The delegates, who came to Washington DC for conversations aimed at influencing policy, not in search of funding, are members of the executive committee of the Latin American and Caribbean Council of Religious Leaders, representing Christian, Catholic, Protestant, Evangelical, Muslim, Jewish and indigenous faith communities in Latin America and the Caribbean. Participants come from Bolivia, Anguilla, Venezuela, Argentina, Colombia, Peru and Costa Rica.
In an interview following the meetings, Dr Oluwakemi Banks, president-at-large of the Caribbean Council of Churches discussed the significance of faith community involvement in development efforts. "Churches reach people at a grass roots level," she said. "We are more in touch with their needs and meet those needs in a different way than governments and other organizations. We felt there was a need to let these groups know we exist and to discuss ways of working together."
The Rev Angel Luis Rivera of the Latin American Council of Churches stressed the importance of discussing issues like economic and social justice. "We want to have a common understanding of the issues that are important to people of the Latin America and Caribbean region and how we can work together to bring a holistic approach to these issues."
The visit was co-sponsored by Church World Service, the US ecumenical aid and development agency.
Martin Shupack, associate director for public policy for Church World Service said leaders of the religious communities and faith-based organizations in Latin America and the Caribbean, "have much to say on the inequality in the Americas, and we believe they will stimulate alternative discussions to what US policy makers are used to hearing."
The meetings were held at the World Bank and included discussions on partnerships for development between religious communities and multilateral finance institutions, strategies for reducing poverty and inequality, and the challenges of social justice, equity and wealth distribution for multilateral financial institutions.
The Millennium Development Goals (MDG) are goals adopted by the United Nations and the international community for halving the number of people living in extreme poverty and substantially improving health and education in impoverished countries by 2015.
Church World Service's advocacy efforts around the development goals include recent publication of "Making Poverty History: Hunger Education Activities that Work", a resource focused on MDG.
Other participants from Latin America were delegation leader Cardinal Julio Terrazas of Bolivia, Latin American Catholic Episcopal Council; the Rev Samuel Olson of Venezuela, Iberian American de Evangelical Dialogue; Claudio Epelman of Argentina, Latin American Jewish Congress; Muhammad Hallarof Argentina, Islamic Organization for Latin America and the Caribbean; Priestess Beatriz Schulthess of Costa Rica, Indigenous Peopleâs Spiritual Council; Fr Enrique Quiroga of Colombia, Latin American Catholic Episcopal Council; Humberto Ortiz of Peru, Latin American Catholic Episcopal Council; Elias Szczytnicki and Valeria Gatti of Peru, Latin American and Caribbean Regional Office.
With thanks to the Church World Service communications office.