World Religious Leaders Press G8 Nations on MDGs

Ahead of the G8 meeting in Canada this weekend, religious leaders from diverse faiths and countries issued a statement on Wednesday calling for the fulfillment of the U.N.'s Millennium Development Goals.

Some 80 senior leaders representing nine different faiths – Christian, Aboriginal, Bahai, Hindu, Jewish, Muslim, Shinto, and Sikh – and hailing from more than 20 countries urged political leaders to fulfill the MDGs.

They pointed out that the MDGs will approach the two-thirds deadline this September.

The MDGs are eight social development and poverty alleviation goals that governments worldwide have committed to fulfill by 2015. They include eradicating extreme poverty and hunger, achieving universal primary education, combating HIV/AIDS and other diseases, and reducing child mortality.

"Military power and economic dominance are the basis for inclusion in a G8 and G20 global leaders' summit," the statement by faith leaders reads. "The voices of the other 172 members of the United Nations are absent."

"In our faith traditions, we strive to listen to the weak and the vulnerable," it continues. "Their voices must be included in decisions that affect them and all of us."

The religious leaders, which include the Rev. Jim Wallis, founder of Sojourners and the Rev. Dr. Andre Karamaga, general secretary of the All Africa Conference of Churches, have called specifically for concrete actions to meet the immediate needs of the world's most vulnerable, to prioritize long-term environmental sustainability, and to work for peace and remove factors that feed into violent conflict.

A record-high of one billion people, the faith leaders emphasized, are now chronically hungry every day, according to the U.N. World Food Program statistic. Faith leaders said despite differences in their religions, a common tenet is that people should treat others as they want to be treated.

"The suffering of anyone is of concern to us all," they wrote. "Our prayers and wishes for wisdom and compassion are with our political leaders at this critical moment."

The G8 summit will take place June 25-27 in Ontario, Canada. The larger G20 summit is also scheduled for June 26-27 in Ontario.

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