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IMF/World Bank/G20 Spring Meetings: Religious Perspectives and Voices

IMF/World Bank/G20 Spring Meetings: Religious Perspectives and Voices

The annual “spring meetings” of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank and associated events dominated global agendas from April 4 to 11, 2021. They included discussions among G7 and G20 leaders. The events highlighted the critical issues that face global leaders and institutions, centered on the COVID-19 emergencies and their impact both on health and human welfare. Environmental topics were also woven through the discussions.

The Banker and the Archbishop: A Tribute to James D. Wolfensohn

Katherine Marshall and James Wolfensohn

Among his many qualities, Jim Wolfensohn was fearless. He took on unexpected and contentious topics during his decade-long tenure as president of the World Bank, one of them his venture into the ferociously complex world of faith and religion. He did so without qualms or hesitation.

G20 Interfaith Forum: Handing over from Saudi Arabia to Italy as President of the 2021 G20

G20 Interfaith Forum: Handing over from Saudi Arabia to Italy as President of the 2021 G20

As the torch passes from our 2020 Saudi Arabian G20 hosts to Italy, we, as the G20 Interfaith Association, affirm our renewed commitment to this vital process. Our long-term focus—both as an organization and as multilateral partners—is centered on the challenges of building a better, more just world. My remarks today focus on four questions that arise as we look to 2021 and the Bologna Forum.

Preliminary Findings on Faith Leaders’ Perspective on the Pandemic and What the World Can Learn from Them

Preliminary Findings on Faith Leaders’ Perspective on the Pandemic and What the World Can Learn from Them

We are now roughly eight months into the COVID-19 pandemic and there is growing evidence about the current health and economic crisis, viewed through a faith lens. In March 2020, a collaborative project between World Faith Development Dialogue, the Berkley Centre at Georgetown University, and the Joint Learning Initiative on Faith and Local communities started a 100 + page repository that collected news articles reporting on faith and COVID-19. At its inception, we saw little formal coverage on the linkages between pandemics and faith. Months in, as more government and humanitarian actors are seeing the value in engaging faith communities in a COVID-19 response (and risks of failing to do so), we are seeing more comprehensive and diverse coverage and findings along these lines.

Celebrating the Life and Work of Father Timm: A Tribute

Celebrating the Life and Work of Father Timm: A Tribute

2020 keeps taking. Katherine Marshall just paid her tribute to a social reformer from South Asia: Swami Agnivesh, who passed away on September 11, 2020. Today I write to celebrate the life of another departed soul whose dedication to serving the most marginalized populations in Bangladesh earned him an apt reputation as the “friend of Bangladesh” —Father Richard William Timm, Superior of the Congregation of Holy Cross. Commemorating Father Timm’s bold and bright life and work today allows us to reflect on larger questions that are so pertinent in the middle of a global crisis: What does participatory community engagement mean in the context of international development? How do we bring positive social change in an evolving society—by empowering the neglected mass, by changing structural and political systems, or both? What can we learn from the lives and works of people who embodied both Western and Eastern knowledge, thoughts, and practices in a lifetime? And how do faith and development intersect and impact each other?

Secular-Religious Dynamics in COVID-19 Response

Secular-Religious Dynamics in COVID-19 Response

From the very beginning of the pandemic, we have heard about the effects of Covid-19 or associated restrictions on religious communities. Purim was one of the earliest events disrupted for many congregations this year. It soon became clear, from Shincheonji Church in Korea through to Tablighi Jamaat events in India, that religious gatherings may pose a risk for the spread of the virus, but also grab media headlines as super-spreader events.

Swami Agnivesh: Reflections and Memories

Swami Agnivesh and Katherine Marshall

What words and what examples come to mind when asked to highlight Swami Agnivesh’s example for the upcoming generation? For those who must take this extraordinary moment when the COVID-19 emergency has thrown so many accepted norms and normal patterns into questions, what can they learn from this remarkable, truly unique force of nature?

Faith and Debt: Challenging the G20

Faith and Debt: Challenging the G20

As the Jubilee year 2000 approached, an international, multi-faith campaign demanded international action to relieve poor countries of unsupportable debt burdens. The debt campaign centered on topics often seen as rather mundane, even sordid. Money is not what’s most important, so why would religious institutions focus on such nasty issues? The answer is that we know well that the way people’s priorities and their values are all too often best reflected is in how they allocate financial resources, so we should never ignore or forget decisions and mechanisms that involve raising and spending resources.

Engaging Religious Entities on Global Agendas in the COVID-19 Era

Engaging Religious Entities on Global Agendas in the COVID-19 Era

Voices of religious leaders and other religious actors are getting louder in policy circles. This contrasts with a time not long ago when religious perspectives were almost entirely ignored and absent, even in areas with both long histories and present engagement (health care, education) and keen interest (protection of the environment, care of the most vulnerable). Today many religious actors are “pushing with our elbows," insistent that their practical and ethical perspectives and voices be heard. The voices are far from consistent or even coherent. Some have a prophetic quality, focusing on deep injustices such as inequality. Others focus on what many term “culture wars,” especially around sexuality and relationships between women and men. The voices are not necessarily heard or agreed to in the policy circles where they make themselves known. But their volume and frequency is rising.

COVID-19’s “Shadow Pandemic” Driving Early Marriage

COVID-19’s “Shadow Pandemic” Driving Early Marriage

As COVID-19 disrupts and destabilizes on a global scale, reports from very different societies point to increasing violence against women. A related topic is rising numbers of early and forced marriages. Since early April, international development organizations and governments have released harrowing statistics and briefs underlining the dangers women and girls face in the “shadow pandemic” brought on by lockdown. However, most of the data and analysis lack a significant faith lens and few offer actionable ways for faith leaders and groups to help combat the problem. Faith leaders are often well-respected in the community and have considerable power to change social norms and advocate on behalf of social causes. Engaging more purposefully with leaders, especially in vulnerable communities, could help prevent girls from entering early marriages. This could have myriad positive outcomes not only for the girls themselves but for cultural norms and the national economy.