Canada is hosting the G8 and G20 summits in June this year. The Group of 8 represents the world’s largest economies, and a meeting of their leaders takes place annually. The Group of 20 economies represents 85% of global gross national product and two-thirds of the world’s population, and is thus growing in importance. Among the flurry of advocacy and education on global issues, this year there is a new coalition of faith communities organizing to make a difference. For the first time in Canada, national organizations of Christian, Baha’i, Muslim, Hindu, Jewish, Buddhist, and First Nations faith communities are working together at a Religious Leaders' Summit to mobilize Canadians to address poverty, care for Creation, and invest in peace.
Since 2005, countries who have hosted the G8 summit of political leaders have also seen faith leaders gather in a parallel summit. Beginning in Britain, then Russia in 2006, Germany in 2007, Japan in 2008 and Italy in 2009 there have been a series of interfaith religious leaders’ summits. Like the political leaders of the G8 countries, the religious leaders come prepared to discuss and agree on the important issues of the day. But unlike the political leaders, the religious leaders include broader, more inclusive, representation. Alongside delegates from the G8 countries, spiritual delegates from each of the continents are invited to work together to bring forward the most pressing global issues and to hold political leaders accountable for past promises.
This year, the Religious Leaders’ Summit will be held on the campus of the University of Winnipeg from June 21 to 23. Over 100 faith leaders are gathering from around the world to build on the work of previous summits, share their perspectives and insights, and together draft an interfaith statement to the G8 and G20 political leaders that represents the best shared thinking on the challenges facing our common home. The draft statement has already been prepared and is currently circulating through faith communities in Canada and among the delegates to the Summit. Commentaries on the statement are being collected from both faith and policy perspectives, and an on-line petition is circulating to allow individuals to indicate their support.
What issues are the churches promoting? The religious leaders want world governments to focus on their promise to meet the Millennium Development Goals, especially to halve world poverty, by 2015. They want action on preserving the environment, specifically a commitment to avoid global warming of more than 2˚C. And they want renewed leadership and action to invest in world peace.
In a new development, Canada has organized a public engagement campaign to mobilize faith communities in Canada, particularly through the organization of an Interfaith Dinner with your MP event. The idea is that Anishnabe, Christian and Baha’i communities in your local riding together put on a dinner or reception and invite their MP to speak to their concerns from their faith convictions and call on their MP to prioritize poverty, care for Creation, and investing in peace. Or it could be local Muslim, Jewish and Hindu communities meeting one another for the first time, working together to address their MP. In Toronto, the Islamic Noor Center and the Salvation Army are jointly putting on a large-scale event. Several area MPs have confirmed, and there is a buzz across faith communities to attend. The goal of the 2010 Interfaith Partnership is to have a dinner in every province, in both rural and urban areas. So far, over 20 dinners have been reported across the country, and we are learning about more every day.
If you are interested in organizing or taking part in an Interfaith Dinner with your MP, contact Caitlynn Bosko to ask for a Resource Kit, or to find out where a dinner is being held in your area. To learn more about the Religious Leaders Summit, examine the Interfaith statement “A Time for Inspired Leadership and Action,” and sign the petition, visit the website. And to stay in touch with the latest developments, become a fan of the 2010 Religious Leaders Summit on Facebook.
Peter Noteboom is the Associate Secretary, Justice and Peace, at The Canadian Council of Churches. The Canadian Council of Churches is currently hosting the 2010 Interfaith Partnership. The 2010 Interfaith Partnership brings together over 25 faith-based organizations to work for interfaith collaboration, mobilize for justice, and organize for influence.