Ecumenical Leaders Hold G-8 Religious Forum Against Poverty

Ecumenical leaders from the U.S. traveled to London Tuesday for the first Transatlantic Forum on Global Poverty.

The three-day forum, held one week prior to the Group of Eight Summit in Scotland, is expected to draw leaders from across denominational lines in both the U.S. and the U.K. The British Chancellor of the Exchequer, Gordon Brown, is also scheduled to discuss the “political implications of alleviating global poverty.”

In preparation for the forum, the U.S. ecumenical leaders held a press conference in Washington Monday and called upon President George Bush to make poverty history.

“Now is the time when people are coming together, and we can stop extreme poverty,” said Weaver, president of the United Methodist Council of Bishops, during the conference.

“An historic convergence of commitment and strategies to end extreme poverty is emerging all around the world,” Weaver said, according to the United Methodist News Service. “The G-8 Religious Forum calls on the G-8 nations to boldly take the next steps needed to end poverty in this generation.”

The G-8 consists of leaders from Canada, France, Italy, German, Japan, the United Kingdom, the United States and Russia, and is scheduled to meet in Gleneagles, Scotland on July 6-8.

Meanwhile, Jim Wallis, editor of Sojourners magazine, said the world has the ability to overcome extreme poverty.

“For the first time, the world has the knowledge, information, technology and resources to end extreme poverty as we know it,” said Wallis at the press conference. “What is still lacking is the moral and political will to do so.”

The Rev. David Beckmann, president of Bread for the World, said the U.S. could eliminate poverty by contributing to Africa every year half of what it spends on Iraq every week – two or three billion dollars.

“For $3 billion, we could cut poverty in half by 2015, eradicate malaria and save one million lives. Poverty is no longer necessary,” said Beckmann.

The speakers meanwhile praised Bush for his debt relief effort, but said he could do more.

“We are not here to make Bush the villain. He has a strong record on Africa. But he can be great on this issue,” said Beckmann.

“The Bush administration is listening” to the needs of the poor, agreed Rev. Rich Cizik, vice president for government affairs of the National Association of Evangelicals. “We would like to see the administration turn a good record into a great record on Africa.”