On July 1-2nd I had the privilege of attending and speaking at a Summit composed of over a hundred faith leaders from across the continent of Africa under the theme of Enhancing Faith Communities’ Engagement on the post 2015 Development Agenda in the Context of the Rising Africa. The Summit was organized under the auspices of the African Interfaith Initiative on Post-2015 Development Agenda, a coalition of faith communities and their leaders across Africa with technical support from the United Nations Millennium Campaign (UNMC) and other development partners. Participants included representatives of the African Council of Religious Leaders, Symposium of Episcopal Conferences of Africa and Madagascar; All Africa Council of Churches; Organization of African Instituted Churches; Hindu Council of Africa; Council of Anglican Provinces of Africa; Union of Muslim Councils of Central, Eastern and Southern Africa; the Spiritual Assembly of the Baha’i; the Association of the Evangelicals of Africa; Fellowship of Christian Councils and Churches in the Great Lakes and Horn of Africa; and Arigatou International, Nairobi, among many others.
I was impressed by the breadth of participation representing the religious diversity across the African continent. While leaders came into the Summit with varying levels of familiarity and engagement with the post 2015 agenda, the Summit played an indispensable role in equipping them with salient information and in uniting them around a shared vision and platform. Leaders lamented that Africa wasn’t properly consulted during the drafting of the existing MDG’s and resolved to be much more vocal and active in influencing the post 2015 goals.
Participating faith leaders expressed significant interest in the dual goals of the World Bank to end extreme poverty and boost shared prosperity. I was able to engage in many constructive conversations about the Bank’s change process and the ways in which the Bank is working to more effectively and proactively engage faith leaders and organizations in dialogue and greater collaboration. One common theme was the need to address poverty through a much broader lens than a purely income based measure. Faith leaders emphasize well-being, human dignity and empowerment as part and parcel to the goal of ending extreme poverty. The Summit resulted in an inspirational and challenging statement (click here) and position paper (click here) as well as concrete commitments to take greater action. Leaders committed to doing more to promote peace and reconciliation in countries and communities currently facing violence; to promote interfaith dialogue and co-operation as a means of eradicating religious radicalization; to ensure women, children, youth, people with disabilities and people living with HIV/AIDS are included in finding solutions to Africa’s development challenges; and to promote the resourcefulness of Africa as opposed to its poverty and misery.
One of the co-Chairs of the Summit, Rev. Nicta Lubaale, captured the spirit of this groundbreaking event when he said at the closing “we need to dream afresh…, a new generation is deciding and declaring enough with poverty and hunger." The Summit represented a hopeful sign that a broad cross-section of faith leaders from across the continent are committed to mobilizing their constituencies and moral authority against poverty, inequality and environmental degradation.
Photograph by Arne Hoel via World Bank Photo Collection, available here
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