Uniting Religions for World Change:
The G8 World Religions Summit
By Carl Teichrib,
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.” (1)
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. (2) In fact, many of the international participants had “never heard of Winnipeg” before. (3)
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.” (4) 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 a 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.” (5)
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)….
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….
Notes:1. 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. 2. Brenda Suderman, “A meeting of religious minds,” Winnipeg Free Press, June 18, 2010. The “protestors” were members of the Fort Garry Mennonite Fellowship Choir. 3. Ibid. 4. “History of the Interfaith Leaders’ Summits,” 2010 G8 World Religions Summit Resource Kit, p.13. 5. All of the previous G8 religious documents were given to Winnipeg delegates and observers in a single package. 6. Doug Koop, “World religions summit in Winnipeg will deliver message to G8,” Christian Week, March 26, 2010, online edition….