Religious Leaders to Gather Ahead of G-20 Summit to Press for Action

More than 25 Christian, Jewish, and Islamic leaders from the United States will be gathering Tuesday as part of an effort to press leaders of the world's largest national economies to fulfill their promises to help people who have suffered from the global economic recession.

Ahead of this week's G-20 Summit in Pittsburgh, the religious leaders will convene for the two-day Faith Leaders Summit to press for actions – not just words – that will help hungry and poor people lift themselves out of poverty.

"Our world is facing not just a financial crisis, but a moral crisis," said the Rev. Bernice Powell Jackson, an ordained minister of the United Church of Christ (USA) and the World Council of Churches (WCC) president in North America. "Shall we create a world based upon economically and ecologically sustainable principles which will result in abundance, dignity and security for all? That is the great moral question of our time."

Organized by Bread for the World, the Alliance to End Hunger, and other U.S.-based organizations, the Faith Leaders Summit will draw Christian leaders including Dr. Galen Carey of the National Association of Evangelicals, Dr. William Shaw of the National Baptist Church, Major Betty Israel of the Salvation Army, and the Rev. Jennifer Kottler of Sojourners.

Also present will be Carol Welch of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Dr. Naeem Baig of the Islamic Circle of North America, and Rabbi Steve Cutow of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs, among others.

Together, the leaders claim that the current recession and the soaring food prices that preceded it have led to dramatic increases in hunger and poverty around the world. Recently, the number of people suffering from hunger surpassed one billion for the first in history.

"The most important indicator of economic recovery should be what happens to hungry and poor people – the many families who are struggling in our own country and the tens of millions who have been driven into hunger around the world," said the Rev. David Beckmann, president of Bread for the World.

Following the Sept. 22-23 gathering, the religious leaders will go to the First Presbyterian Church of Pittsburgh to meet with representatives of the U.S. delegation to the G-20 summit.

This week, U.S. administration officials are expected to provide details on a new initiative to reduce hunger and poverty around the world.

Established in 1999, the G-20 (Group of 20) brings together major industrialized and developing economies to discuss global economic issues. Together, these countries account for 90 percent of global gross national product, 80 percent of world trade, and represent two-thirds of the world's population.

Pittsburgh will host the G-20 summit Sept. 24-25.