To speak of the global need for dialogue, peace and simple human kindness when the world economy is in crisis may seem ridiculous, but a lack of humanity and solidarity are what triggered the crisis in the first place, said the founder of the Community of Sant'Egidio.
Andrea Riccardi, founder of the Rome-based lay movement, spoke at the Nov. 18 closing ceremony of the annual interreligious gathering for peace organized by Sant'Egidio.
"Today, in the midst of a global crisis of great proportions, one for which all the consequences cannot be seen, we feel a need to affirm that the economy and finance are not everything," Riccardi said.
"Too much has been overlooked: all that regards the human person and the spirit," he said. "In order to build a world of well-being for a few, we have given growth to a world of pain for many."
Asking for a renewed commitment to dialogue and to care for those who are hurting "is not something too simple, ingenuous and ridiculous in the face of the complex machinery of the economy or the mechanisms of a politics that is weary in many parts of the world," he said. "It is what has been missing -- the essential simplicity of being true, human, brothers and sisters, peaceful."
Hundreds of Christian, Muslim, Jewish, Buddhist, Sikh and other religious leaders gathered Nov. 16-18 in Nicosia to promote interreligious dialogue, the peaceful resolution of conflicts and joint action to alleviate poverty and human suffering.
In their final statement, the leaders said: "We are at a difficult point in history. Many certainties are shaken by the economic crisis that has seized our world. Many people are pessimistic about the future."
And, they said, while "richer countries focus on protecting their own citizens, a very high price for the crisis will be paid by the poorest of the world. We are deeply concerned about the millions of old and new poor people, victims of a market thought of as almighty."
A religious reaction to the crisis cannot be based on pessimism and self-protection, the leaders said. Instead, it is time to pay greater attention to those who suffer and make a renewed commitment to laying "the foundation of a new world order of peace."
"The quest for justice, the use of dialogue and respect for the weak are the tools we need to build this new world order," they said. "We need a surplus of spirit and a greater sense of humanity."
Cardinal Renato Martino, president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, told the gathering that the economic crisis threatens peace and the global battle against poverty.
While the world's richest countries struggle to come up with the $50 billion needed to keep their Millennium Development Goals' commitments for reducing poverty, the United States has found $700 billion to bail out failing financial institutions, the cardinal said.
World leaders must recognize that the crisis can have a serious impact on peace and stability in the world's poorest nations, so programs to alleviate the crisis must include "a new global social and ethical pact," one that would stimulate businesses, strengthen regulation and promote solidarity, he said.