Faith groups need to combat greed, say conference attendees

Faith groups need to combat greed, say conference attendees

Speakers at an international Christian-Muslim dialogue conference organised by the Lutheran World Federation (LWF) say religious groups need to do more to combat greed in the global economy.

Though both Islam and Christianity acknowledge man as “custodian of God’s creation” and greed as “betrayal of God’s trust,” there is “strong resistance” in both religions to combat greed by challenging forces of globalisation, said Chandra Muzaffar, a Muslim economic scholar from the University of Malaysia and director of International Movement for a Just World.

Muzaffar delivered the opening address at the September 25-30 meeting, called “Engaging Structural Greed,” organised by the LWF at Kota Kinablu, the capital of the state of Sabah in Malaysia. Conference attendees include Muslim delegates, church officials, economists and secular social activists.

“Today greed rules the world so much so that even money has degenerated into a commodity to be traded, rather than being a medium for trade,” remarked Muzaffar, referring to the latest international currency crisis.

Islamic nations have been not been able “to resist the forces of the markets” despite Quranic injunctions against profiteering and interest, said Muzaffar. “Religious leaders in the world are concerned more about (religious) identities than issues of justice and equality.”

Ulrich Duchrow, a member of the Evangelical Church in Baden, Germany, told the conference that “Many of the European churches are not ready to accept the clear decisions of the ecumenical assemblies rejecting the capitalist market system.”

“The market is an ambivalent animal that creates wealth by impoverishing others. Instead of farmers borrowing seeds from others as in the past, now they are forced to buy seeds, lose their lands, and are indebted in slavery due to market driven prices for their produce,” said Duchrow, a professor of theology at Heidelberg university.

While the banking system has become an instrument of “institutionalised greed,” he regretted that “many of the churches are indirectly endorsing the present neo-liberal market economy by pretending that it is still being socially regulated.”

“Greed is all around us. It is global and personal. The common wealth is disappearing into our wealth,” said Martin L Sinaga, Study Secretary for Theology and the Church at the LWF, regarding the theme of the conference.

Sinaga said the interfaith dialogue was a follow-up to similar talks with Buddhists in 2010 at Chiang Mai in Thailand “to raise the voice of the faith communities” to the greed and injustice driven by the market economy.

By Anto Akkara, Ecumenical News International

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