The global financial crisis should not derail progress that has been made on fighting poverty worldwide, religious leaders have said, adding that the current financial market turmoil makes attempts to tackle deprivation all the more urgent - writes Chris Herlinger.
"When the powers that be declare there is an emergency, there is mobilisation," said the Rev David Beckmann, president of the Washington-based anti-hunger group Bread for the World, prior to a 25 September United Nations gathering in New York to discuss anti-poverty targets for 2015, known as the Millennium Development Goals.
In an interview with Ecumenical News International, Beckmann noted that as he spoke the U.S. Congress was debating a financial bailout for Wall Street financial institutions of nearly US$700 billion, while "religious communities have been working with pennies for decades" against hunger and poverty.
Beckmann helped convene an interfaith consultation on global hunger on 24 September in advance of the UN meeting.
Religious leaders gathered at other similar forums in New York said they would pressure political leaders to make good on promises to support the United Nations' development goals.
"Today, faith leaders are sending a clear message to government leaders that peoples of all nations and religious persuasions expect them to deliver on their promises," said Salil Shetty, director of the Millennium Campaign, an umbrella effort to galvanise public support for the goals, which include the eradication of serious poverty by 2015.
Shetty's 26 September statement followed declarations by governments, business and other groups that they would pledge US$16 billion toward the millennium goals.
This round of pledges, said U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, had "brought together a broad coalition for change," and was remarkable because "it comes against the backdrop of [a global] financial crisis.".
In a statement issued by the New York-based Religions for Peace organization, some 40 religious leaders said, "The massive scale of poverty and related suffering can be changed. Because we have the capacity to make this change, we have the moral obligation to do so."
"Each of our faith traditions requires us to stand with those who live in abject poverty and destitution, and speak out and take action on their behalf. We are united in our call to world leaders, governments, civil society, religious communities and the private sector to take bold action to accelerate the implementation of the MDGs."
[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.]