Uniting Religions For World Change: The G8 World Religions Summit

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The G8 World Religions Summit
 
NOTE: Everyone heard about the G8 and G20 political summits in Toronto, yet few knew that a global interfaith event paralleled the G8/G20. This event, titled the G8 World Religions Summit, brought together spiritual leaders from around the planet to work towards an interfaith approach to global governance. The following article on the G8 World Religions Summit, taken from first-hand experience, is the front article in a 41-page report on this important interfaith summit. It details the event and its intentions, giving you a birds-eye view regarding the spiritual side of globalization. 
 
If you're interested in reading the full, 41-page report, containing documents extracted from this event, sign-up for a Forcing Change (www.forcingchange.org) membership. Not only will this give you access to the complete package, but you'll be able to download all back-issues of FC, along with other special research papers – including a mind-blowing report on the Bank for International Settlements.

 
 
By Carl Teichrib (www.forcingchange.org
 
   A sacred fire was lit. Mother Earth, we were told, needs to hear that we love her, so give a "prayer of gratitude" to the Earth; "Because out of Mother Earth comes all we need to live…she gives us the food, the water, the medicines, and the teachings."
 
   We were asked to privately perform a water ritual, for this will give strength to Mother Earth. Everything that's alive, "even the water" it was explained to the delegates and observers, has the spirit. We were told that religiously speaking, "there is not only one way, there is many ways" – and to go to the sacred fire and "invoke the spirits." Drummers summoned the power of the eagle spirit, because it brings "the spirit of love, it brings vision. The Eagle carries our wishes and our prayers." And this eagle spirit will tell the Great Spirit of the wonderful things happening in this gathering.  
 
   And what a gathering! As an observer to the 2010, G8 World Religions Summit (WRS), I listened as the opening ceremonies set the tone for this remarkable event. The Secretary General of the WRS, Dr. James Christie – the Dean of Theology at the University of Winnipeg – welcomed us as religious equals, stating that what was important was that we "offer our service, and ourselves, and our lives" to the "God we know by so many names."[i]
 
   This multi-faith perspective was evident in full color; Hindu swamis in flowing orange attire, members of the Saudi Ministry of Islamic Affairs dressed in desert garb, Jewish yamakas, cross pendants and clerical collars, Shinto robes, Orthodox priests in black, Salvation Army uniforms, and Baha'i leaders and evangelical Christians in business suits. Religions from every corner of the planet were represented. Even so, very few people have heard about the G8 World Religions Summit, held in Winnipeg, Manitoba from June 21-23.
   Compared to the G8/G20 political summits occurring days later in Toronto and Huntsville, Ontario, the WRS – the official religious parallel – was an ultra-tame affair. The security budget for the Winnipeg event was zero; nobody burnt any cars, and no windows were smashed. The only "protestors" were a group of Mennonites who, a few days before the Summit began, sang songs of support at a downtown park.[ii] In fact, many of the international participants had "never heard of Winnipeg" before.[iii]
 
   Nevertheless, what occurred in Winnipeg will likely have a far more real impact at the local level than what transpired in Toronto. Why do I say this? Because of the direct lines of influence that radiate from the World Religions Summit right down to individual bodies. It's a top-down strategy ensuring that religious people will fall in line with an emerging global framework – a type of world theology along with an international system of socialism. And it's going to work, particularly in the Christian community.
 
"We Give Thanks"
 
   The history of the G8 World Religions Summit goes back to 2005. That year, Jim Wallis of Sojourners – a left wing Christian advocacy group – teamed up with the Archbishop of Canterbury to "raise the voices of the faith leaders of the world in unity and in a call for justice."[iv] The 2005 event was a small, ecumenical affair made up of representatives from Catholic groups, the National Association of Evangelicals, World Vision, the Salvation Army, the Mennonite Central Committee, the World Evangelical Alliance, and other church bodies.
 
   These leaders released an "Action on Poverty" document calling for governments to alleviate poverty, and for faith communities to generate the necessary moral will. The text itself was very short and ambiguous, with an underlying socialist slant.
 
   The next year, the G8 religious summit took place in Moscow and a host of other religions contributed; leaders from the Muslim, Jewish, Buddhist, Hindu, and Shinto communities – along with Christians, hashed out another declaration, this time calling for a "more systemic partnership of religious leaders with the United Nations." In 2007 at Cologne, the emphasis was on the UN Millennium Development goals and the support for a worldwide climate change "protection agreement." 2008 and 2009 saw the religious leaders meeting in Sapporo/Kyoto/Osaka, Japan and Rome, Italy.
 
   Sapporo's declaration called for religions to unite in a "commitment to peace." It also recognized that "religious communities are the world's largest social networks which reach into the furthest corners of the earth." In other words, religions are powerful actors in the global field. Hence, the Sapporo text demanded a system of "Shared Security" based on interdependence, the "mysterious giftedness of all existence," the establishment of an "Earth Fund dedicated to environmental protection," and a binding global climate treaty. Another document was released in Japan, recognizing that the "dharmic, pantheistic and ancestor traditions of Eastern societies remain a practical tool… in defence of the environment." And religious diversity was expounded as part of the divine, cosmic order – therefore, "we seek to be considered equal partners."[v]
   Finally in Rome, faith leaders focused on the worsening global economy and broadly called for a "new financial pact," without really explaining what it would entail. To be fair to the Rome event, the entire summit was overshadowed by the almost simultaneous release of Pope Benedict's encyclical Charity in Truth, which shook the international community in its brazen call for a world political authority "with teeth." (See the Forcing Change report, "Sowing the Seeds of Global Government," Volume 3, Issue 8).
 
   Winnipeg, as a potential hosting city for the World Religions Summit, entered the picture in 2008. At Sapporo, Dr. James Christie, a representative from the Canadian Council of Churches, recommended Winnipeg for 2010. It was accepted.
 
   Dr. Christie, who's the Dean of Theology at the University of Winnipeg, wasn't the only Canadian at Sapporo. Another official from the Canadian Council of Churches, Dr. Karen Hamilton was present, and these two formed the nucleus for the 2010 event, which was held at the University of Winnipeg
 
   Under the surface of this emerging Summit was an interesting, behind-the-scenes matrix. Christie, Hamilton, and the President of the University of Winnipeg – Lloyd Axworthy, who gave the initial go-ahead for the event – are all top officials with the World Federalist Movement (WFM). Axworthy is the President of the WFM, Christie the Council Chair, and Hamilton is the WFM Executive Chair.
 
   For those not familiar with the WFM, it's the largest and most influential pro-world government advocacy group in existence. Over the years the WFM has openly called for a world parliament, an international military force, a global tax regime, and a host of systems designed to legally bind nations under a central governing structure. The WFM also has a history of working with global interfaith groups, such as the United Religions Initiative, in bridging politics and religion at the international level. (For more information as the event location, see the article "Winnipeg, World Federalists, and World Religions" in the full Forcing Change report). 
 
   So Winnipeg would host the Summit, organized by key officials from the Canadian Council of Churches whose worldview is saturated in a world government context. Moreover, the spiritual component is completely couched in an interfaith mindset – all religions are carriers of truth, all spiritual expressions are divinely valid. Not only was this interfaith perspective evident in the other G8 religious gatherings and throughout the Winnipeg event, it was expressed in the 2010 WRS Resource Kit with a recommended prayer,
 
   "We give thanks for the world's religions and the richness they bring to our lives… We give thanks for our Baha'i brothers and sisters, for their genuine openness and desire for unity… We give thanks for our Buddhist sisters and brothers, for their sense of peace and relinquishing of self… We give thanks for our Christian brothers and sisters, for their message of love and ethic of compassion… We give thanks for our Hindu sisters and brothers, for their open-hearted acceptance of others and kindly disposition toward those of other faiths… We give thanks for our Humanist brothers and sisters, for their emphasis on the dignity and worth of all persons…We give thanks for every faith tradition, named and unnamed, for the variety and richness of their spiritualities, for their united quest for truth… ever unite us as one community…" (For the full prayer, see the "Ever Unite Us" article in complete Forcing Change report).
 
   Biblical Christianity runs counter to this "ever unite us," all-religions-are-valid claim. This is evident in both the Old and New Testaments, where God expresses in no-uncertain terms His displeasure with those who flirt with other faiths. 2 Corinthians 6 rhetorically asks; What harmony is there between Christ and Baal? How can there be fellowship between light and darkness? What agreement can be found between the temple of the Living God and idols? (See 2 Cor. 6:14-16).
 
   Unfortunately, Christian groups were involved with the WRS, even at the planning stages – giving the interfaith movement credibility. And it wasn't just the Canadian Council of Churches, but Sojourners and World Vision, and Canada's largest evangelical umbrella group; the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada (EFC).
 
   In a March 2010 interview with Christian Week, Karan Hamilton explained that the EFC was a full partner in the World Religions Summit; "In fact, they could be said to have been the first partner in."
 
   Such a move, it was recognized, could create leeriness in some evangelicals who support the EFC. When asked about this point of contention, EFC stated; "Interfaith is absolutely a place were the EFC could work when we're talking about social justice."[vi]
 
   Bringing in the Canadian evangelical community was a strategic move, as was inviting other Christian groups. Dr. Hamilton explained,
 
   "They come by virtue of their position and that's been a very deliberate strategy. So the Archbishop of Canterbury is invited… Jim Wallis from Sojourners is coming…The general secretary of the All African Conference of Churches will be one of the plenary speakers. His position means that he represents – institutionally, structurally, organizationally, however you want to put it – the Christians of Africa, which is half the population of Africa."[vii]
 
   What all of this represents, from the first event in 2005 until Winnipeg, is the intentional move within Christendom to politically unite with other faiths "in one community." The motivator: Social Justice – world peace, care for the Earth, and alleviating poverty.
 
   And who doesn't want peace, a healthy environment, and the poor raised above their poverty? These are admirable goals. But something else is going on, raising the question: What does the Christian community have to sacrifice in the name of interfaith partnering for "social justice"?
 
   Not surprisingly, the only time the name "Jesus Christ" came up at the 2010 WRS was when He was compared with Buddha and Mohammad as a religious figure. Nobody dared present Him as "the way, the truth and the life… the only way to the Father." (John 14:6). Love, compassion, and "spiritual law" were tossed about freely in the speeches. But nobody was willing to rock the boat by venturing into what Francis Schaffer called "true truth."
 
   The interfaith approach, by default, recognizes Jesus as one spiritual leader in a long line of religious reformers. That's all. Nothing more. Hence, at global interfaith events, like the one that took place in Winnipeg, Christian representatives remain silent on the subject of Jesus Christ as truth, "…the only way to the Father." For to do otherwise would be divisive and contrary to the ideal of "one community." By default, the Christian community has to sacrifice Truth.
 
   Therefore, it was no surprise that on different occasions I heard participants criticize Christian missions and Christian "fundamentalists." The representative of the Pacific Council of Churches told us that everything is inter-connected, and that we need to revisit the ancient [pagan] religions and myths – those ancient ways that were "deliberately pushed aside" by Christian missionaries – in order to understand and appreciate this interdependence. Another speaker explained that it was time to put aside the past dogmas of traditional faiths, and that the litmus test for religions in this global era was interdependence and transcendent spirituality.
 
   Religions, we were repeatedly told, needed to unify if the planet is to survive.  
 
Global Designs
 
   The main theme for the Winnipeg summit was the UN Millennium Development Goals, primarily the alleviating of poverty, care for the Earth, and the building of peace cultures.
 
   All three concerns are noble in-and-of themselves, and nobody in his or her right mind wants poverty, environmental degradation, or conflict – regardless of political or economic stripe. How we respond to these issues, however, will determine what type of world we live in. Consider the suggested ideas and methodologies.
 
1) Poverty: To invest 0.7% of GDP in development assistance, cancel debts in poor countries, hinder speculative money and flight capital, combat corruption, and foster conditions for small businesses – among other ideas expressed in the final document. So too, the final text called for access to basic needs such as food, water, health care, education and economic opportunities. On the surface these suggestions seem beneficial, and they may be in the right context.   
  
   What was troubling was the background these ideas sprang from: The scrapping of industrial-based capitalism and the formation of a new economic order – the evils of oil, the need for a global financial tax, and the notion that poverty is the result of "wealthier sectors of society." The rich owe it to the poor, and governments need to level the playing field by redistributing the wealth. As one participant explained through an allegory, "it's not about having a bike for each, it's about learning to share one bike in community."
 
   Throughout the three days it was evident that a form of international socialism was the heartbeat of "poverty alleviation." It was the same old Marxist line of class warfare and the Leninist use of "social justice" – politically leverage the poor in order to bring down capitalism, all for good intentions, of course. But it never works that way, because the goal is a new political and economic order; the establishment of a new ruling system in the name of "justice" and "peace." One master is swapped for another. Historically speaking, over taxation, onerous regulations, and more coercive means of "wealth redistribution" do indeed level the playing field. All become poor, and those who were previously poor sink even lower.
 
   The President of the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada, Bruce Clemenger, did ask that the role of government remain limited. It was a statement I agree with, but in the socialist context of the World Religions Summit, it was a mute point. Instead, religions were asked to create political momentum for global financial governance.
 
   As economics professor, Eric Schansberg stated in his book, How Poor Government Policy Harms the Poor, "The solution for the poor is not more government; more often than not, the problem is government." He aptly described such a system as one "of the politicians, by the bureaucrats, for the interest groups."[viii]
 
   [Note: The opposite of social justice from a Christian perspective is Biblical justice and Christian compassion. Biblical justice: Equal treatment by law (Leviticus 19:15). Biblical compassion: Seeing the need and independently acting with compassion to meet the need (Good Samaritan). Social justice, on the other hand, is seeing a need and then leveraging the situation to achieve a political end. Christians who say they're involved in "social justice" by working in an orphanage or soup kitchen have miss-applied the term; they're engaged in Christian compassion.]  
 
2) Earth Care: The entire World Religions Summit revolved on this one cause, save the Earth. Everyone, it seemed, whistled to this central tune: Man is destroying Mother Earth, and we need to enter into a revolutionary new "communion with the planet." Human caused global warming is bringing about greater change than anything else in the past 300 million years, at least, that's what we were told. As Pandit Roopnauth Sharma of the Hindu Federation said, "we are the biggest parasites on Earth."
 
   There was nothing subtle about Earth Care at the WRS. Climate change is bringing us to the point of no return, and the evil west – with evil capitalism and evil competition and evil market economies – are to blame, and by default Western Christianity is thrown into this mix of planetary guilt. We desperately need to turn to native spirituality, Shintoism, African animism, Germanic paganism, and other Earth-friendly faiths. At one point a delegate proposed that all the religions of the world join together and have a massive vision quest, a mystical rite-of-passage modeled after native spirituality; "it would be the biggest vision quest in the world." Why? Because indigenous cultures have been loyal to the Earth, and that's what we need now – a spiritually acceptable Earth ethic. Jim Wallis of Sojourners called it a "new vision."
 
   His Holiness, Aram I, Catholicos of Cilicia said that climate change must be tackled from a moral, ethical, and spiritual perspective. It was clear from those who participated that we need a "gospel of respecting nature."
 
   Environmental degradation does happen, and the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico is a graphic case in point. Iceland's Eyjafjallajökull volcano is another example, but then again, if nature harms nature, how do we define it? Oh, I forgot… it's Gaia's anger at the human race, a theme that played out at the WRS.
 
   "Our Mother Earth, who is suffering so much that she is able to bring the richest person in this world to his knees when he was unable to fly because of the volcanic ash; that's how powerful she is, and she will show more of her power."
 
   The common theme of a spiritually generated, global Earth-ethic was put forward on a number of occasions. This was expressed in the final document in a way that parallels the Gaian philosophy (Mother Earth is a living entity), saying that religions see "the planet as a unified whole, not unlike the cells of a body...deeply interdependent."
 
   Economics came into the picture too: We need a new system of eco-justice, where the first-world countries pay an eco-debt to developing nations. Hints of this are found in the Final Draft of the working document, A Time for Inspired Leadership and Action. The wording was more forceful, however, in the first draft; "industrialized countries have caused a disproportionate amount of environmental damage; they now owe an ecological debt to developing countries, to all life and to the future." As the final text says, "We must move beyond short-term political interests and arguments over who pays."
 
   One voice at the World Religions Summit challenged these assumptions, the representative from the Church of England, Nick Baines. He was the only one with the courage to ask, "Who will pay?" Who will give up their cell phones? Who will give up on travel? The questions were pointed at the participants. Mr. Baines was right – we need to live in the real world. While Mr. Baines made a valid point, I'm afraid it largely fell on deaf ears.
 
   The bottom line was expressed by the representative from the Canadian Foodgrains Bank: Our churches, temples and mosques need to guide behavioral changes in their constituents. The language of faith, another delegate told us, is a powerful tool to incite global change. Nothing less than a "global systemic change" is necessary – ethics, values, and spiritual priorities must shift if Mother Earth is going to survive. Faiths must unite in this ultimate cause. This was the central message.
 
3) Peace: The uniting of religions is a powerful symbol for world peace, and the final document called on nations to halt the arms race, invest in peace programs, stop ethnic cleansing, and curtail nuclear weapons. Nice sounding platitudes, but it didn't seem to carry much weight. 
 
   Somehow, the G8 World Religions Summit petered out in the discussions on peace. Not that it wasn't talked about, but it felt like the Summit had run out of time to address this issue in comparison to the sessions on Climate Change or Poverty. Part of the reason may have been that these other issues can be lumped into the broader context of peace.
 
   One item of note did come up: R2P – the "Right to Protect." What is R2P? The brainchild of Lloyd Axworthy and the World Federalist Movement, R2P holds that the international community has a responsibility to militarily intervene in situations where national governments fail to protect their own people. On the surface this seems well intentioned, but it opens up Pandora's Box in that a multitude of questionable excuses can be used to justify "intervention." It is a concept that has the potential for grave abuses. From a World Federalist perspective, the Right to Protect becomes the legal justification for a world political authority to act militarily. The danger lurks in that the seeds of tyranny are often buried in the soil of good intentions. (For more on this topic, see Forcing Change, Vol. 2, Iss.7, "Kosovo and the International Community").
 
   In general, the notion of world peace seemed to orbit around co-existence and interdependence – the integration of all our institutions into a new whole, including religions. And leaders of world faiths become a type of global statesman.
 
What Does It All Mean?
 
   The 2010 G8 World Religions Summit was geared to influence G8 and G20 leaders meeting days later. At the end of the three-day event, a closing ceremony was held with Shinto prayers for world peace and the coming together of one mind, and the final document, A Time for Inspired Leadership and Action, was turned over to a Canadian government representative. By the way, when the call for votes was made to accept this final document, it was unanimously adopted (see the end of this Forcing Change report for a copy of the text)
 
   So did the Religions Summit make a difference to the heads of state meeting in Toronto? This is questionable.  
 
   But it will make a difference on two other fronts: First, as a global gathering of religious leaders, it legitimizes the interfaith approach as a "spiritually inspired" political voice. By its nature, this lends credence to the idea that world faiths can unite under one global system. Hence, a new standard is required for religious legitimacy – the litmus test is this; Does your religious views unite or divide? Christian participation in such a movement, whether intended or not, must downplay the uniqueness of Jesus Christ as the "only way to the Father." For to vocally stand on this claim would immediately brand oneself as intolerant of the new spiritual paradigm.
 
   Secondly, the G8 Religions Summit may make a difference at local levels, depending on how hard the agenda is pushed by those umbrella groups who participated. And the push may not be overt, but rather pursued through more subtle language or programs that, on the surface, appear well intended. This does not mean that a person looks for a boogie-man under every bush, but it does demand diligence – for those groups who participated committed themselves to incite changes that reflect an interfaith/socialist perspective. This could best be described as Spiritual Marxism.
 
   Finally, if you attend a church or are part of a Christian ministry that falls under one of the groups involved in this G8 event, call them to account. Be tactful yet truthful, and make your position known. And if the umbrella organization determines that the interfaith movement is now the new game to play, then your church or denomination has to ask some hard questions; Remain a member and contribute to this movement, or disassociate in respect to a higher Biblical calling. -------
 
Carl Teichrib is editor of Forcing Change (www.forcingchange.org), a monthly journal on world change issues from a Christian perspective.
 
 Endnotes:


[i] The quotes and speech materials used in this report have been taken from my audio copies of the WRS. If otherwise, the source is included in footnotes where appropriate.

[ii] Brenda Suderman, "A meeting of religious minds," Winnipeg Free Press, June 18, 2010. The "protestors" were members of the Fort Garry Mennonite Fellowship Choir.

[iii] Ibid.

[iv] "History of the Interfaith Leaders' Summits," 2010 G8 World Religions Summit Resource Kit, p.13.

[v] All of the previous G8 religious documents were given to Winnipeg delegates and observers in a single package.

[vi] Doug Koop, "World religions summit in Winnipeg will deliver message to G8," Christian Week, March 26, 2010, online edition.

[vii] Ibid.

[viii] D. Erc Schansberg, How Poor Government Policy Harms the Poor (Westview Press, 1996), p.230.

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