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Faith leaders to hold summit before G8 meeting in Japan

Tokyo, 24 June (ENI)

High ranking representatives of the world’s main religions are to gather in Japan to discuss world poverty, climate change and violence in advance of the 7-9 July meeting, in the northern Japanese city of Sapporo, of leaders of the Group of Eight industrial nations.

"The globalisation of markets requires a globalisation of responsibility," said Germany’s top Protestant bishop, Wolfgang Huber, in a 24 June statement. Huber hosted a similar meeting in Cologne in 2007 before the G8 meeting that year in northern Germany.

In July, the faith community representatives will be drawn from the G8 countries – Britain, Canada, Italy, Germany France, Japan, Russia and the United States – as well as from the Middle East, Africa and Asia.

Separately, Roman Catholic bishops from the G8 nations have issued an appeal to the leaders of those countries to reaffirm previous commitments made to developing countries, and to agree action to stem climate change, which the bishops said disproportionately affects the poor.

"In 2005, the world’s richest countries promised to spend an additional US$50 billion per year on development assistance by 2010, with half that amount going to Africa. This commitment must be met and additional commitments should be made in the areas of health care, education and humanitarian aid," the Catholic bishops wrote in a 17 June letter.

"The global food crisis, which disproportionately devastates poor communities, and the terrible toll of HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases, make concerted action even more urgent," they said.

"The poor, who have contributed least to the human activities that aggravate global climate change, are likely to experience a disproportionate share of its harmful effects, including potential conflicts, escalating energy costs, and health problems," the Catholic bishops added.

Referring to the interfaith gathering in advance of the G8 meeting, Bishop Huber of the Evangelical Church in Germany (EKD) said the faith leaders would be, "calling for respect for creation, demanding the rights of the poorest to participate, and ensuring that the voices of the countries of the South are not left out".

The EKD has announced that 50 representatives from Anglican, Lutheran, Reformed and Roman Catholic churches had been invited to the 2-3 July interfaith meeting, along with representatives of Islam, Judaism, Buddhism, Hinduism, indigenous religions and Shintoism.

A document to be adopted at the end of the two-day conference in Sapporo will be presented to the Japanese government and the leaders of the G8 countries.