LONDON – Religious leaders have urged G20 nations not to forget the world's poorest people when they meet in London this week to discuss the global financial crisis.
The call was made in a joint communiqué issued by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. Rowan Williams; the head of the Roman Catholic Church in England and Wales, Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor; and Chief Rabbi Sir Jonathan Sacks.
In the communiqué, they tell G20 leaders to consider the moral dimension of the financial crisis.
"We pray for the leaders of the G20 as they prepare to meet in London this week. They, and we, have a crucial role to play in recovering that lost sense of balance between the requirements of market mechanisms that help deliver increased prosperity, and the moral requirement to safeguard human dignity, regardless of economic or social category," they said.
They voiced concern over estimates from the World Bank that 53 million people are at risk of falling into poverty as a result of the crisis.
"The likelihood is that more will face significant hardship before it comes to an end, and those who are already poor suffer the most. Along with the leaders of the G20 we all have a duty to look at the faces of the poor around the world and to act with justice, to think with compassion, and to look with hope to a sustainable vision of the future," they said.
The religious leaders went on to warn that pledges made to the poor before the downturn now risk being "postponed by the pressing concern to rectify market failures."
"Even in these difficult times we strongly urge the leaders of the G20 to hold fast to the commitments they have made to the world's poorest people," they said. "To forget their needs would be to compound regrettable past failures with needless future injustices."
Williams, who is the spiritual leader of the global Anglican Communion, said that expectations toward the G20 meeting were high.
"Many people believe that this is a moment for the world's leaders to reaffirm their moral commitments to the welfare of all, especially the poorest, and to the care of the planet for future generations, as well as responding to the immediate challenges of securing a degree of financial stability," he said.
"As religious leaders, we shall be praying that these expectations will be met and that the gathered politicians will be inspired to share a word of hope with all of us."
The comments come after thousands of Christians joined a major march through central London over the weekend to demand that G20 leaders agree on a fair and sustainable future for the global economy.
The "Put People First" march was organized by an unprecedented alliance of more than 150 organizations, including The Salvation Army, World Vision, Oxfam and Friends of the Earth.