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International conference in Rome focuses on religions, Sustainable Development Goals

International conference in Rome focuses on religions, Sustainable Development Goals

Photo: Matthew Ross/WCC

12 March 2019

The International Conference on Religions and the Sustainable Development Goals, held in Vatican City from 7-9 March, was jointly organised by the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue and the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development (Roman Catholic Church).

It included an audience with Pope Francis and addresses including Cardinal Pietro Parolin (Vatican secretary of state), Cardinal Peter Turkson (prefect of the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development), Rev. Dr Martin Junge (general secretary, Lutheran World Federation) and Michael Møller (director general, United Nations Office in Geneva).

Pope Francis described the aim of the conference as “listening to the cry of the earth and of the poor”. The level of commonality in approach between the representatives of faith traditions towards the Sustainable Development Goals was very significant, leading to a comment from one participant about preaching to the converted. Møller emphasised the integralism and indivisibility of the goals: humanity has made unprecedented economic progress in recent decades, but at the cost of a sick planet and rising inequality. He wants to develop closer ties with faith communities in ensuring the successful implementation of the goals.

The conference highlighted the need for collaboration between faith communities in areas as diverse as climate change, health, education, inclusion, inequality and social changes, as well as the consequences of the 4th industrial revolution.

Rev. Matthew Ross, programme executive for Diakonia and Capacity Building, attended the conference on behalf of the World Council of Churches (WCC).

“The urgency of action needed in tackling climate change is beyond doubt,” said Ross. “Given that a large majority of the world’s population belongs to a faith tradition, the faith communities have a deep responsibility to work for human flourishing and to combat climate change.”

While the Sustainable Development Goals have their limitations and weaknesses, they do represent an opportunity to promote a better life for billions of people – notably the world’s poorest, said Ross. “Churches can and must contribute to making this happen,” he said. “This is an area of considerable agreement between faith traditions and this unity has the potential to achieve very positive goals for the whole of humanity.”

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