The UK Baha’i community was represented at the G8 World Religions Summit 2010 in Winnipeg, Canada, from Monday to Wednesday of this week.
Barney Leith, a member of the UK Baha’i community’s national governing council, joined other representatives from the world’s religions for the summit at the University of Winnipeg ahead of the G8 and G20 summits in Toronto.
The World Religions Summit 2010 was the sixth in a series of interfaith gatherings associated with the annual G8 meetings. It brought together more than 80 participants from all of the world’s major faiths including, for the first time, representatives of the Baha’i community.
Religious leaders from more than 20 countries attended, including each of the G8 nations – Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States.
Inspired leadership and action
The summit urged world leaders to take “inspired leadership and action” to eradicate poverty, protect the environment and end violent conflict.
“Acknowledging our common humanity and embracing the imperative to treat all persons with dignity, we affirm that no one person is more or less valuable than another,” said the statement agreed by summit participants.
“We urge the political leaders to consider first the vulnerable among us, particularly our children, and to work together to address the dehumanizing scourge of poverty and injustice, and practice and promote care for our common environment, the Earth.”
The Reverend Dr. James Christie, secretary general of the Summit, said the meeting and its output was directed principally at the leaders of the so-called “Group of 8″ countries because they represent the nations that have the most power to effect change in the world.
“The reality is that these nations have the money, they have the clout, and they make a difference,” said Dr. Christie.
Some participants said it was also important for the religious communities themselves to redouble their own efforts to address the three main topics of their discussions – poverty, the environment, and peace.
‘The future ain’t what it used to be’
In addressing the opening session of the summit, Canadian senator and humanitarian Lieutenant-General Roméo Dallaire quoted baseball player Yogi Berra’s famous quip about the future before stating that this is an era of revolutions in the worlds of of information, the environment and security.
Things are changing so fast the politicians find it difficult to do anything more than react.
“Religions need to help politicians to think long-term and to live by the fundamental premise that every human being is human – to be treated equally and to be protected from human rights abuses,” said General Dallaire.
“National sovereignty is not an absolute,” said General Dallaire. “Love and faith are absolutes.”
Baha’i representatives from Canada, France, Germany, Japan, the United Kingdom, and the United States took part in the summit.
“It was an important experience for all of us,” said UK Baha’i representative Barney Leith. “We were there to share our understanding that solutions to the world’s problems require the application of spiritual principles and an understanding of the oneness and interconnectedness of humanity. We were also there to learn what the other faiths understand and are saying about the complex issues that the summit considered.”
“It was notable that most, if not all, delegates understood that the challenges the world faces are at root spiritual.”
Human rights and religious freedom seminar
A day-long seminar on 21 June, sponsored by the Baha’i community of Canada, on human and religious freedom was one of the pre-summit activities on the campus of the University of Winnipeg.
A panel of four human rights experts from different religious backgrounds concluded that the right to freedom of religion must be upheld to ensure that its influence on society is progressive and positive.
The statement, issued after three days of deliberation at the World Religions Summit 2010, called upon political leaders to take “courageous and concrete” actions.
Regarding poverty, it said more than a billion people are “chronically hungry” and that women, children and indigenous peoples are among those most affected.
“The magnitude of poverty would be overwhelming were it not for the knowledge that this global inequity can be transformed into a shared life of human flourishing for all. Together, we have the capacity and the global resources to end extreme poverty and its impacts,” the statement said.
On the subject of the environment, the statement noted that all faith traditions “call us to careful stewardship of the Earth.” It warned of the effects of climate change and said “bold action is needed now.”
Governments were also called upon to halt the nuclear arms race, and to make new investments to create a “culture of peace.”
The Summit condemned religiously-motivated terrorism and extremism with the faith leaders committing themselves “to stop the teaching and justification of the use of violence between and among our faith communities.”
The statement was presented to Steven Fletcher, Canada’s Minister of State for Democratic Reform. Mr. Fletcher promised to deliver it to the Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, for presentation to the G8 leaders.
You can download the Statement from the World Religions Summit 2010 here.
You can read a fuller story on the Baha’i World News Service here.
Photos by Louis Brunet, © Baha’i International Community
[tags]Baha’i, Bahai, G8, UK, religious leaders, summit, Winnipeg, poverty, environment, peace, security[/tags]