Faith Leaders Seek to Move Up Poverty on G-20 Agenda

Ahead of the G-20 summit, faith leaders gathered in Pittsburgh Wednesday to urge world leaders to focus more on the poverty issue.

Noting that poverty is low on the summit's agenda, religious leaders said it was their responsibility to pressure leaders to address the "moral crisis."

"As religious persons, we come at this with a conviction that at the core of human existence the creator of all has will that all should share in the bounty of his creation," said Dr. William J. Shaw, former president of the National Baptist Convention, USA.

"We are not in the summit, but we are trying to impact the agenda of the summit."

More than 30 faith leaders from Protestant Christian, Catholic, Jewish, and Muslim traditions gathered for the G-20 Faith Leaders Summit on Sept. 22-23. The summit was organized by Bread for the World, the Alliance to End Hunger, and other partners.

David Beckmann, president of Bread for the World, highlighted that hunger has sharply risen around the world over the past few years. And in Pittsburgh, he noted, official statistics show that 22 percent of the people in the city live below the poverty line.

"We come together to say to the world and to our political leaders especially that hungry and poor people are important," said Beckmann, who previously worked at the World Bank for 15 years overseeing projects to reduce poverty.

Similarly, Galen Carey, the new director of government affairs for the National Association of Evangelicals, called on political leaders at the G-20 Summit to agree on and implement "concrete" initiatives that address the needs of the poor and hungry.

Too often in the past, the evangelical representative noted, rhetoric had not been followed by action. Instead, world leaders would repackage existing activities and brand them as a new commitment, Carey said.

The world's most powerful political leaders are gathering in Pittsburgh for the G-20 Summit from Sept. 24 to 25. The top agenda at the summit is reforming the world economy.

U.S. officials are expected to provide details on a new initiative to reduce hunger and poverty in the world during the summit, according to Bread for the World.

"When the one billion people who are hungry are able to eat, then we can celebrate economic recovery," commented Ruth Farrell, Presbyterian Hunger Program coordinator, according to the Presbyterian News Service. "The good news is that our planet produces enough food. Is there the will to live differently so that everyone gets a fair share?"

The number of people going hungry every day is now over 1 billion – a historic high, according to the U.N. World Food Program.

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