Reaction to the Current Economic Crisis

Date: October, 2008

The past months have seen dramatic developments in the worldwide financial systems. The world’s attention is riveted to the changes in the stock markets, amid increasing fear and insecurity relating to the stability of global economy and the fate of individuals and nations. We the undersigned, leaders and scholars of multiple religious traditions, wish to bring the following message to the attention of the public, as it struggles to make sense and come to terms with rapidly changing financial realities:

1. Every crisis is an opportunity and contains within it the promise and hope of new beginnings. We therefore encourage all to examine what possibilities for the long term good and wellbeing of our world may emerge from this situation.

2. The present crisis highlights the unity and interconnectedness of all humanity. We live in one, interconnected world. No group or society has the luxury of considering itself beyond the present crisis or immune from it. Our deep interconnectedness is itself a spiritual lesson that should inspire us to appropriate action.

3. Awareness of this interconnectedness leaves no room for the scapegoating of religions, of regions of the world or of any large social or national group as responsible for this crisis.

4. There is, however, room for healthy reflection upon life, its values and the spiritual and moral ills that have led to the present crisis. As these ills are found in all societies, and as they are basic to human nature, we encourage an attitude of positive self-criticism and the attempt to improve ourselves as individuals and societies, rather than blaming and scapegoating of others.

5. Our interconnectedness should find expression through a sense of mutual responsibility for the welfare of society and the world at large.

6. In particular, this moment of economic crisis calls for care and responsibility towards the most vulnerable members of society, the poor, who stand to suffer the most from dramatic changes in world economic structures.

7. Care and responsibility should also characterize our activities in the local and global marketplace, which are not beyond ethics and moral imperatives. We recognize that the world of business and commerce is a battle ground for spirituality, where moral and spiritual values are tested constantly. We are thus invited to reflect upon the moral ideals that should govern our business conduct and act accordingly.

8. When seeking ethical guidelines, we should recall the principle of the common good. Our actions should seek to increase not only our personal wellbeing, but should be weighed in light of their broader consequences and their contribution to the common good.

9. One of most fundamental weaknesses of human nature is greed. The present situation makes manifest the harm to the individual and society brought about by greed and unbridled ambition, especially as it is institutionalized and becomes a fundamental component of our economic structures. We are united in our ongoing struggle against the vices of human nature and recommend the wisdom of our traditions as tools to combat the weaknesses of human nature. Our different religious traditions offer important teachings on the metaphysical and psychological roots of greed.

10. The present situation leaves many in a state of insecurity. Painful as it is, the present moment also reminds us that we cannot fix our hopes for a happy and fulfilled life entirely upon material success and stability. Economic fluctuations teach us how unreliable the material field is as a source of hope and stability. The fullness of human existence cannot be attained through the marketplace. We are thus called once again to discover the balance between the material and spiritual life.

11. The message we seek to deliver is a message of hope. Adversity leads to awakening and to deeper insight. The present situation holds potential for rich insight and should therefore fill us with hope. It reminds us of our interconnectedness, purpose and resources. It allows us to recall our spiritual ideals and moral values and to put them into action. It also reminds us that in fundamental ways the world’s great religions agree in their view of life and in their recognition that hope resides beyond the material world. Such common vision is itself a source of hope and an invitation to advance towards the goal of fuller human existence.

12. Our prayers and sincere intentions are with all people, and we watch the unfolding events with care and concern. We encourage all to consult the resources of traditions in facing adversity; we are available to offer our best advice on the basis of our traditions and we remain on hand to react to future events, as they unfold.

Steering Committee of the Elijah Board of World Religious Leaders

Swami Atmapriyananda, Ramakrishna Mission, India

Bhai Sahib Mohinder Singh, Chairperson of Guru Nanak Nishkam Sewak Jatha, United Kingdom

Ven. Khandro Rinpoche, Mindrolling Monastery, India

Dr. Maria Reis Habito, International Program Director of the Museum of World Religions

Dr. Nazeer Ahmed, Exec. Director, American Institute of Islamic History and Culture, USA

Rabbi Richard Marker, Vice-President, IJCIC, USA

Bishop Lennart Koskinen, Church of Sweden

Sr. Therese Andrevon, Community of the Beautitudes, France

Scholars of the Elijah Interfaith Academy Think Tank

Prof. Vincent Cornell, Emory University

Dr. Maria Reis Habito, International Program Director of the Museum of World Religions

Prof. Johann Vento, Georgian Court University

Rabbi Meir Sendor, Young Israel of Sharon

Prof. Timothy Gianotti, York University, Canada

Prof. Vanessa R. Sasson, Marianopolis College

Prof. Anant Rambachan, St. Olaf College

Dr. Alon Goshen-Gottstein, Elijah Interfaith Institute

Prof. Miroslav Volf, Yale University

Statement Signatories

Buddhist Leaders

His Holiness the Dalai Lama, India

Dr. Jan Chozen Bays, Great Vow Zen Monastery, USA

Venerable Norman Fischer, Founder of Everyday Zen Foundation, USA

Zenkei Blanche Hartman, Abbess of San Francisco Zen Center

Ven. Bhikkuni Kusuma, Ayya Khema International Buddhist Mandir, Sri Lanka

Ven. Jinwol Lee, President of United Religions Initiative of Korea

Ven. Khandro Rinpoche, Mindrolling Monastry, India

Dharma Master Hsin Tao, Founder of the Museum of World Religions, Taiwan

Venerable Karma Lekshe Tsomo, University of San Diego

Christian Leaders

Bishop Hilarion Alfeyev, Russian Orthodox Bishop of Vienna and Austria

The Most Rev. Frank T. Griswold, Presiding Bishop, Episcopal Church, USA

Cardinal Jorge Maria Mejia, Former Secretary of the College of Cardinals and Vatican Chief Librarian and Archivist

Archbishop Boutros Mouallem, Catholic Bishop Emeritus, Haifa and Galilee, Israel

Metropolitan Nikitas Lulias, Orthodox Church, Hong Kong and Southeast Asia

Bishop Lennart Koskinen, Church of Sweden

Bishop Vincentiu Ploiesteanu, Secretary of the Romanian Orthodox Holy Synod

Cardinal Telesphore Placidus Toppo, President of Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India

Abbot Primate Notker Wolf O.S.B., Titular head and first representative of the Benedictine Order

Religions of India Leaders

Chandra Swami, Usadin Order, India

Dadi Janki, Administrative Head, Brahama Kumari Movement

Guruji Sri Rishi Prabhakarji, Sidha Samadhi Yoga, India

Bhai Sahib Mohinder Singh, Chairperson of Guru Nanak Nishkam Sewak Jatha, United Kingdom

Sugunendra Theertha Swamiji, Maadhwa Sangha, India

Jewish Leaders

Chief Rabbi Shear Yashuv Cohen, Chief Rabbi of Haifa, Israel

Chief Rabbi Menachem HaCohen, Chief Rabbi of Romania

Chief Rabbi Berel Lazar, Chief Rabbi of Russia

Rabbi Michael Melchior, Chief Rabbi Emeritus Norway, MK, Israel

Rabbi Mordechai Peron, Chief Rabbi Emeritus of Zurich

Chief Rabbi David Rosen, Chief Rabbi Emeritus Ireland, President, International Jewish Committee for Interreligious Consultations (IJCIC)

Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, Chief Rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the Commonwealth

Rabbi Awraham Soetendorp, Rabbi of the Liberal Jewish Community in The Hague (The Netherlands)

Muslim Leaders

Sayyed Jawad Al-Khoei, Al Khoei Foundation, London

Dr. Mustafa Ceric, President of the Council of Ulema, Bosnia-Herzegovina

Maulana Dr. Wahiduddin Khan, President of the Islamic Center, New Delhi

Chief Kadi Ahmed Natour, President, Israel’s High Shari’a Court of Appeal

Dr Adamou Ndam Njoya, Former President of the African Muslim Congress, Cameroon

Sheikh Muhammad Nur Abdullah, President, Islamic Society of North America, USA

Dr. Abdurrahman Wahid, Former President of the Republic of Indonesia