Faith leaders and faith communities have a role to play in being peacemakers in the face of rising xenophobia, anti-Semitism and anti-Muslim hatred, the UN deputy general secretary has told an audience at Christian Aid.
On a visit to the international development organisation’s head office in London on Monday (3 June), Amina Mohammed told attendees from across faiths and the international development sector of the progress that has been made on the sustainable development goals (SDGs).
The past four years have seen declining rates on extreme poverty and child mortality and increased electricity access in the poorest countries, but there is much further to go – and it will need ‘innovative, multi-sectoral and multi-thematic’ approaches in order to see positive change.
Remaining global challenges include rising hunger levels, a million species facing extinction, and disadvantaged population groups remaining excluded. Ms Mohammed added: ‘Globally, youth are three times more likely to be unemployed than adults. Women face new obstacles and age-old hurdles… And our natural environment is in a perilous situation.’
In her speech, Social Justice for Sustainable Development: How to build a new relationship with each other and with creation to meet the SDGs,
she said: ‘Faced with such challenges, and with deep polarization within countries and across the world, no country, no group, no organisation can go it alone. We need everyone, including faith-based organisations, to rally around the SDGs.
‘Long before the SDGs, faith-based organisations and their leaders embodied the principle of leaving no one behind and led the fight for social justice, human rights and sustainable development.
‘Faith-based organisations are already showing leadership and mobilising resources and networks to support the hardest to reach – and to shift attitudes and behaviors toward implementation of the SDGs. We must do more to harness your unique capabilities.
‘With a rise in xenophobic rhetoric, anti-Semitism and anti-Muslim hatred, there is a growing global interest in engaging religious actors as peace mediators and as builders of inclusive and peaceful societies. Time and time again, faith-based organisations have stood in the face of rising tensions and conflict. They have provided space for open and constructive dialogue.’
Amid rising populism around the world, Ms Mohammed urged those engaged in issues of poverty alleviation, gender justice and climate change to be inclusive. ‘Many of us are shocked about what we’re seeing and things we thought we had already scored with on gender and human rights. There is a rollback on these things. But my advice is to engage; engage with the most miserable of them because if you keep them out of the room, it’s only going to get worse. We need to understand what’s got us this backlash. We must never give up.’
Christian Aid’s chief executive Amanda Khozi Mukwashi, who previously worked as Chief of Volunteer Knowledge and Innovation for the United Nations Volunteer Programme (UNDP), said: ‘In every single community, there are people who are left behind and the causes of poverty are political. Most of the issues that Christian Aid focuses on – like climate change for example – affect all of us and they need to be resolved collectively but in a way that is fair to the poorest and most vulnerable. The churches need to get ahead of the curve on these issues. People of faith have huge power to create change if they want to, and if they act together.’
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